Joseph Mallord William Turner

Westminster Abbey and the Ruins of the Old Houses of Parliament from Old Palace Yard


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 79 × 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXXI 12

Catalogue entry

As Sarah Taft has noted, Ian Warrell was the first to identify this drawing and a few others in this sketchbook as relating to Turner’s slightly unfinished watercolour of The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, of about 1834–5 (Tate D36235; Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 373).1 The present sketch continues across folio 13 recto opposite (D27747), and shows the view north from Old Palace Yard. On the left of the present page is the east end of Westminster Abbey on the left, perhaps with numbers denoting aspects of the structure, and on the right the Italianate facade of a wing of committee rooms in the Palace of Westminster, to the south-west of Westminster Hall (seen on the opposite page). These rooms were burnt out in the catastrophic fire of October 1834, leaving a shell which was subsequently demolished. The view on folio 13 verso (D27748) is a variation on this one.
Although the slightness of Turner’s study means the damage to this part of the parliamentary complex is not obvious, leading Warrell to date the present page to slightly before the fire and suggest the connection with the Tate watercolour as possibly fortuitous,2 details of damage on the opposite page indicate that Turner made the view after the fire. The significance of these sketches is discussed further in the sketchbook’s Introduction.
The blank recto is numbered by John Ruskin in red ink ‘12’ and stamped ‘CCLXXXI – 12’.

Matthew Imms
April 2014

See Taft 2007, p.181; the fire had been mentioned in general terms in connection with this sketchbook in Ian Warrell, ‘Exploring the “Dark Side”: Ruskin and the Problem of Turner’s Erotica’, with ‘A Checklist of Erotic Sketches in the Turner Bequest’, British Art Journal, vol.4, no.1, Spring 2003, p.28.
See Warrell 2010, p.73.

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