Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tournus and the Plain of the River Saône


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 138 × 215 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXIII 19

Catalogue entry

Despite Turner’s inscription, this is a view of Tournus, with its Romanesque abbey of St Philibert, seen from the Chalon-sur-Saône road to the north. As David Hill points out, Mâcon is in fact some seventeen miles further south.1 He suggests that Turner had reached Tournus – about twenty miles on from Chalon (see folios 17, 18 of this sketchbook, D04409, D04410) – on his third day out of Paris.2 Turner made this sketch on his final approach from Sennecy-le-Grand, looking over the town across the plain of the Saône to the Jura. Two other sketches of Tournus are on folios 26 and 27 (D04418, D04419). Turner’s composition studies for his painting The Festival upon the Opening of the Vintage of Macon (Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust)3 in the Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate, D05018, D05019; Turner Bequest LXXXI 116, 117) were freely developed from this sketch, while the picture’s title reflected his confusion over the inscription as well as his memory of the vineyards he passed through between Autun and Chalon. Surprisingly, Turner does not seem to have made any sketches of the real Mâcon.
Hill 1992, p.28.
Ibid., p.27.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.36 no.47 (pl.55, colour).

David Blayney Brown
June 2004

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