Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vincennes, Île-de-France


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 175 × 127 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLVII 47

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook turned horizontally, Turner filled much of this page with a view of the fortress of Vincennes which was then located on the easternmost fringes of Paris. The stronghold’s main tower and the royal chapel are recorded in some detail in the top right-hand corner of the page. Turner made several sketches of the Vincennes fortifications in the present volume, a list of which is provided in the sketchbook Introduction. As the site of the notorious execution of one Napoleon’s important opponents, the Duc d’Enghien, this building was of particular interest to the artist as he sought subjects to illustrate a new edition of Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon Buonaparte (1834–36). These formed the basis for one of the volume’s engraved vignettes; see Tate impression T04973.Art historian Jan Piggott has suggested that the small dark pencil mark on the battlements drawn along the centre of the page represents Savary, Napoleon’s Chief of Police, from which he oversaw the execution.1

John Chu
January 2015

Jan Piggott, Turner’s Vignettes, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1993, pp.58–9

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