J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Village-Fair, for Rogers's 'Poems' c.1830-2

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
A Village-Fair, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’ circa 1830–2
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 200
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 115 x 123 mm on white wove paper, 269 x 309 mm
Inscribed in pencil by the artist ‘Avenues of booths up the wide street or road thro a village – signs here & there | A Conjuror’s or Quack doctor’s booth’ and ‘A Players stage’ along bottom
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 200’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The vignette, A Village-Fair, was published in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems, as an illustration to a poem entitled ‘Human Life’.1 The engraver was Edward Goodall.2 The image complements the following lines from Rogers’s poem which Turner marked with a pencil box in the margin of his own copy of the 1827 edition of Poems (see Tate D36330; Turner Bequest CCCLXVI p.93):
A Wake – the booths whitening the village-green,
Where Punch and Scaramouch aloft are seen;
Sign beyond sign in close array unfurled,
Picturing at large the wonders of the world
(Poems, p.84)
Turner’s vignette shows the lively bustle of a large village fair. In the foreground, several performers compete for the attention of the teeming crowd. This is one of a number of vignettes in Poems to show landmarks or quotidian scenes that would have been familiar and appealing to British audiences. As Andrew Wilton has observed, the church with the buttressed steeple and pointed spire resembles that of St James’s church in Louth, Lincolnshire and the scene bears some similarity to Turner’s watercolour, The Horse Fair, Louth circa 1827 (British Museum),3 engraved for the topographical series Picturesque Views in England and Wales.4
The background details of the composition bear some similarity to those in a preliminary sketch for a vignette, supposedly related to An Old Manor-House (see Tate D27532; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 15). In particular, the spire of the church, the line of regularly spaced trees and the double towers of a building half-seen in the distance broadly resemble those of the study.
The artist’s inscribed instructions beneath the work are intended to clarify certain details of the drawing for the engraver. Turner has indicated that he wanted the final print to clearly show the avenues of booths, the advertising signs and the temporary wooden stages with their itinerant performers. There is also a small pencil sketch of the player’s stage in the bottom right corner of the sheet.
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.84.
W. G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.382. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04675 and T06165).
Wilton 1979, no.809.
Wilton 1975, p.112.

Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘17’ top centre and ’30 | a’ centre and ‘CCLXXX 200’ bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 200’ lower centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘A Village-Fair, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’ c.1830–2 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-village-fair-for-rogerss-poems-r1133348, accessed 24 November 2020.