Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Tower of London from the River Thames; Studies of the Hulk ‘Perseus’, a Paddle Steamer, and other Shipping


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 190 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCIV 34 a

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, the most prominent study is of part of the River Thames waterfront of the Tower of London, with St Thomas’s Tower framing Traitors’ Gate towards the left, seen from the south-west. This is one of a number of sketches which informed Turner’s watercolour of the Tower of about 1825 (private collection),1 as discussed in the entry for folio 34 recto (D17819), the closest to the finished design. The loose shapes to the right appear to indicate the Perseus, a former 22-gun Royal Navy frigate since reduced to a hulk and moored at that point.2 There is a wider view from a similar direction on folio 35 recto opposite (D17821).
Above is an array of shipping closely corresponding to that of the Tower in the watercolour, including the Perseus again on the right. Peter van der Merwe has discussed the vessels in the finished design in considerable detail, noting a collier on the left (two being shown in the watercolour) and concluding that the confidently detailed depictions there of the steamers Lord Melville and Talbot, in the position occupied by the single lightly sketched equivalent to the left of centre here, might have been based as much on information from newspaper advertisements as on direct observation.3 See also the detail of a steamer (or two) on folio 36 recto (D17823).
For other London and Thames views in the present book, see under folio 2 recto (D17775).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.358 no.515.
See van der Merwe 1991, pp.12, 13.
Ibid.; see also Shanes 1981, p.14, and Shanes 1990, pp.272, 286 note 223.
Technical notes:
An adventitious splash of grey pigment towards the bottom right probably relates to the colouring of the walls of the Tower in the finished design.

Matthew Imms
November 2014

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