Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Skinners Company Barge below a Bridge, and the Barge Master


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 88 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXLI 1 a

Catalogue entry

Turner shows one arch of the bridge, with figures below it. The same bridge, with more figures and barges, appears on folio 2 of the sketchbook (D10589). Turner’s inscription indicates the barge of the Skinners Company. Built in the eighteenth century, this vessel was typical of the ceremonial barges of the City livery companies that took part in river festivities like the Lord Mayor’s procession, coronations or bridge openings. The Skinners barge made an annual summer expedition to Richmond, where a reception was held at the Star and Garter Hotel at the top of Richmond Hill. After the opening of the new Waterloo Bridge in 1817, it set off from there, but Turner’s indications of the bridge itself are too slight to confirm whether it is Waterloo or Richmond. As well as the barge he has sketched the Barge Master with his ceremonial waterman’s coat with its full skirt and ermine cuffs, and square cap. His sketches were presumably made in preparation for his picture England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate N00502)1 exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1819, since this includes a barge on the river, even if only in the distance and without specific details.
The Skinner’s barge was sold in 1858, and later served as the boat-house of the Queen’s College, Oxford, moored off Christ Church Meadows.2

David Blayney Brown
July 2011

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.106–7 no.140 (pl.145).
James Foster Wadmore, Some Account of the Worshipful Company of Skinners of London, Being the Guild or Fraternity of Corpus Christi, London 1902, pp.137–42.

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