Jan Piggott tentatively identified this loose colour study as a depiction of the field of Waterloo. The battlefield had formed the subject for Turner’s earlier work illustrating The Works of Lord Byron (1833) and for Walter Scott’s ‘Life of Napoleon’ within Scott’s Prose Works (1834–6; vol. XVI), for which there is a preparatory sheet in the Turner Bequest, also tentatively identified by Piggott (Tate D27590; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 73).1 As with the other study, if the building seen in this sheet does relate to Waterloo, it may be the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, a building that played a strategic role in the Battle of Waterloo of June 1815.
Turner visited Waterloo two years after the battle, in August 1817. Sketches of the battlefield are included in the Waterloo and RhineSketchbook (Tate Turner Bequest CLX 17–26). Turner also painted a large oil, The Field of Waterloo, which was exhibited in 1818 (Tate N00500). Whether he did go back to this subject within the present sheet is open to debate, but the apparent presence of a sentry in the left-hand foreground and the ominous red building in the background are certainly suggestive of war, as is Turner’s mysterious inscription, which seems to point towards Napoleon: ‘The Rival[?s] of the divine hand of “N”’.
This is one of thirteen loose sheets found grouped together, a number of which are believed to be ideas for compositions relating to the life of Napoleon; for more information see the Introduction to this section.
Piggott 1993, p.95.
Blank, save for splashes of brown watercolour in the upper left, and for inscriptions: inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXXX 30’.