This is perhaps a study for an uncompleted commission for a watercolour of the interior of St Paul’s, showing the service of Thanksgiving held on 23 April 1789. The viewpoint is roughly similar to that of a watercolour of the scene by Edward Dayes (1763–1804), engraved by James Neagle, showing ‘The Royal Procession in St. Paul’s on St. George’s Day 1789’, looking towards the west door. The figures in Turner’s drawing may have been partly derived from this, though the architecture is evidently studied on the spot. A.J. Finberg doubted that this drawing referred to the event,1 though the date, 23 April, given in Turner’s inscription on the verso is that of the 1789 Thanksgiving Service.
It is not clear what prompted Turner’s retrospective account of the ceremony: George’s attacks had begun in 1765, but after the bout of 1788–9 there was no recurrence until 1801. In 1811 the King relapsed into permanent incapacity and his son, later George IV, assumed the Regency; George III died in 1820. The subject may have developed simply out of an exercise in drawing the interior of St Paul’s, just as Turner’s drawing of the interior of Ely Cathedral led to two exhibited watercolours, Transept and Choir of Ely Minster ?1796 (private collection)2 and Ely Cathedral, South Transept ?1797 (Aberdeen Art Gallery).3 The first of these belonged to Turner’s patron Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758–1838) and was used as a template for the large Salisbury Cathedral drawings he commissioned; see Tate D00369 (Turner Bequest XXII P).
The sheet has been folded into eight, and is stained and torn.
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