Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study; Moonlight Scene with Bridges


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 157 x 273 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 141

Catalogue entry

Turner painted a number of small landscape studies which appear to be views of Continental locations. Although the rounded and borderless format suggests that they were designed as vignettes, they have not yet been securely identified with any of Turner’s illustration projects. There are a number of such watercolours in the Turner Bequest (see Tate D27540; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 23). In light of watermarks found on two sheets within the group, this study has been dated circa 1832–9.
This unfinished study shows a moonlit view of a Continental city with bridges. Turner has outlined the basic details of the composition in pencil and has blocked in areas of the sky and the three arches of the bridge in the foreground in blue tones. The rounded format of this composition identifies it as a preliminary study for a vignette; however, the exact subject remains unidentified. Jan Piggott has suggested that it may depict the Pont Neuf in Paris and tentatively related it to Turner’s Rivers of France series, published in 1837 (see Tate D24683; Turner Bequest CCLIX 118).1
Piggott 1993, p.96.
Technical notes:
The support for this watercolour is Bristol board, a type of board sold by most artists’ colourmen.1 The sheet is stamped with a blind embossed stamp ‘BRISTOL | [image of crown] | BOARD’ top left. Like many of the works which were displayed as part of the National Gallery’s loan collections during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the work has suffered fading and discolouration owing to over-exposure.
Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.114–15.
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘CCLXXX 141’ bottom centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry


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