Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Tournai Cathedral


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 118 × 78 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXVI 19 a

Catalogue entry

This slight sketch of a twin-spired church is unidentified by Finberg and Cecilia Powell. Despite the sketch’s relative lack of detail, the striking, almost severe, perpendicularity of the towers and their pointed turrets lead this cataloguer to propose that this is the Cathedral of Our Lady at Tournai, Belgium. The towers depicted here resemble the Romanesque bell towers of the Cathedral, and the small arched windows seem to be consistent with those at the apsidal ends of the southern transept.1
It is certainly conceivable that Turner passed through Tournai on his route from Calais to Brussels. John Murray, in his Hand-book for Travellers on the Continent, includes Tournai on his suggested route between Calais and Brussels via Lille: this journey being one of the shortest between England and the Continent as the ‘diligences go every day to and fro’ from Calais ‘in about 24 hours’.2 Murray writes that the cathedral at Tournai is ‘the most interesting edifice in the town... conspicuous from all sides with its 5 towers’. He adds, however, that it was significantly damaged in the French Revolutionary wars, the cathedral ‘being not only stripped of its revenues, but pillaged and defaced; its sculpture broken, and its painted glass for the most part demolished’.3

Alice Rylance-Watson
February 2014

Paul Frankl (revised by Paul Crossley), Gothic Architecture, New Haven and London 1962, 2000, p.91.
John Murray, Hand-book for Travellers on the Continent, 2nd edition, London 1838, p.89.
Ibid, p.93.

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