Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Tower and Spire of St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, London


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 117 × 87 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 67

Catalogue entry

This sketch shows the south side of the upper stages of the tower and spire of St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, with its four-sided, pedimented aedicule supporting the shallow pedestal of a steep, pyramidal spire, flanked by stone royal lions and unicorns and topped by a statue of King George I in classical costume on a cylindrical Roman altar.1 Towards the lower right is a separate detail of one of the perforated diagonal pedestals or buttresses at the corners below the aedicule, cut off at the foot of the main view. For further details of the church see under folio 64 recto (D08043).
The drawing is annotated in pencil: ‘Figure 1/3 of steep’ (i.e. steeple), ascending vertically towards the top left; ‘19’ on the steeple itself, numbering its tiers, and possibly ‘2’ at the centre of its base; two vertical arrows one above the other towards the top right, the lower inscribed ‘2’, ascending vertically. There are various other small marks, some of which may be numbers or letters.
Maurice Davies relates this sketch, a rough ink rendering of the same subject on folio 64 recto and a study of the statue on folio 76 verso (D08043, D08063) to Turner’s first perspective lecture, delivered at the Royal Academy in January 1811 (see the Introduction to the sketchbook); Turner discussed the statue on top of the steeple, and the effect of viewing it at an angle from the ground,2 in relation to two large watercolour diagrams. ‘6’ shows a scale elevation of the whole church (Tate D17115; Turner Bequest CXCV 144), while ‘7’ (Tate D17116; Turner Bequest CXCV 145) is a pictorial treatment, looking up the tower from close to its foot, based on the drawing on folio 66 recto continued on folio 63 verso (D08046, D08042; not mentioned by Davies).
See Colin Amery, ‘The Design’ in Kerry Downes, Colin Amery and Gavin Stamp, St George’s, Bloomsbury: A Hawksmoor Masterpiece Restored, London 2008, p.34.
See Davies 1992, pp.32, 106 note 9; and Davies 1994, p.290.

Matthew Imms
January 2012

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