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 13

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 12 verso opposite (D27746), and shows the view north from Old Palace Yard. On the left of the present page is Westminster Hall, with the old House of Lords running south to the right with the castellated King’s Entrance porch in the foreground (see also folio 7 verso; D27737). High up towards the left is the west wall of the House of Lords with its series of semicircular windows, only exposed by the destruction of a range of rooms fronting Old Palace Yard in the catastrophic fire of October 1834; the significance of this point and these sketches in general is discussed further in the sketchbook’s Introduction.
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.
Technical notes:
This leaf has been tipped in on the recto of a prominent stub, and the neat but not quite straight edge towards the gutter indicates that it had been cut out freehand, although the purpose of its removal is unclear: if for exhibition, such an occasion is not recorded. There are two isolated strokes of orange watercolour towards the bottom left, perhaps colour tests for the flames in the watercolour mentioned above.

Matthew Imms
April 2014

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