Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Prince of Orange, William III, Embarked from Holland, and Landed at Torbay, November 4th, 1688, after a Stormy Passage

exhibited 1832

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 902 × 1200 mm
frame: 1200 × 1510 × 133 mm
Presented by Robert Vernon 1847

Display caption

This representation of an historical event contains a number of errors. William's fleet had indeed been beaten back to base in October 1688 but on 1 November sailed in perfect weather, landing on 5 November. Like various earlier Dutch-inspired compositions, this, too, carries a political message connected with Anglo-Dutch relations. Here, Turner criticises again British non-intervention in the Belgian revolt, which was to lead to the termination in 1839 of the United Netherlands. In the Academy catalogue Turner added a curious note about the Prince having sailed his yacht, not a frigate - a confusion with his arrival in a yacht for his wedding to Princess Mary on 4th (!) November 1677.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

343. [N00369] The Prince of Orange, William III, embarked from Holland, and landed at Torbay, November 4th, 1688, after a Stormy Passage Exh. 1832


Canvas, 35 1/2 × 47 1/4 (90·5 × 120)

Coll. Robert Vernon, presumably purchased at the R.A. 1832; given to the National Gallery 1847; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1912.

Exh. R.A. 1832 (153); Australian tour 1960 (10); Marine Painting City Art Gallery, Plymouth, August 1969 (27); on loan to National Maritime Museum 1975–80.

Lit. Hall 18512, p. 10 no. 78; ‘The Vernon Gallery: The Prince of Orange landing at Torbay’, Art Journal 1852, p. 226, engr. W. Miller; Hall iii 1853, no. 8, engr.; Waagen 1854, i, p. 385; Thornbury 1862, i, p. 321; Wornum 1875, pp. 77–8, engr.; Thornbury 1877, p. 448; Bell 1901, pp. 118–19 no. 178; Armstrong 1902, p. 226; MacColl 1920, p. 1; Finberg 1961, pp. 335, 493 no. 378; Lindsay 1966, pp. 141–2; Lindsay 19662, pp. 61–2; Wilton 1979, pp. 218–19.

Exhibited in 1832 with a reference to ‘-“History of England”’ and the text

‘The yacht in which his Majesty sailed was, after many changes and services, finally wrecked on Hamburgh sands, while employed in the Hull trade.’

According to Wornum she was in fact wrecked on the Black Middens, near Tynemouth Castle. The landing in fact took place on the morning of 5 November. William sailed from Helvoetsluys, the subject of another picture exhibited by Turner in the same year (No. 345). Andrew Wilton, countering the stress on Turner's late pessimism made by many critics recently, sees this as an optimistic picture, with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 paralleling the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832. William III's landing at Torbay after enduring the storm demonstrates man's victory over nature.

As compared to Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (No. 342 [N00516]) this picture struck critics as of ‘a soberer tone’ (Morning Chronicle, 7 May 1832) and as showing a ‘strict adherence to nature’ (Literary Gazette, 12 May). According to the Athenaeum for 26 May, however, ‘The painter has made this picture somewhat poetical: he has squandered the finest hues and the finest perspective upon a subject which has lost somewhat of its feverish interest in the hearts of Englishmen.’

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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