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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Adieu Fontainebleau c.1841-2

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Adieu Fontainebleau c.1841–2
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 29
Pencil and watercolour on paper, 221 x 292 mm
Inscribed in pencil by Turner ‘Adieu Fontainebleau’
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX-29’ bottom right
Inscribed in red ink ‘29’ bottom right
Stamped with Turner Bequest monogram lower centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
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.
Turner inscribed this study ‘Adieu Fontainebleau’, allowing the subject to be identified as Napoleon’s departure from Fontainebleau following his abdication in 1814. This was also the subject of vignette Turner made in the 1830s (Indianapolis Museum of Art) as an illustration to Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon, for which Turner had sourced engravings to familiarise himself ‘with all the stock Napoleonic imagery’.1 The art historian Nicholas Alfrey suggested Turner’s interpretation of the subject may draw on a composition by Horace Vernet (1789–1863), Les Adieux de Fontainebleau2; neither the vignette nor the present study bear much resemblance to Vernet’s picture, however. While the vignette is finely detailed and draws on Turner’s visit to Fontainebleau to gather material for his Scott illustrations in 1832, this later study lacks such clarity. The palace is very loosely depicted in a smoky grey and black strokes and there is little sign of figures or narrative outside of Turner’s inscription.
Turner seems to have returned to ideas surrounding the life of Napoleon following the former emperor’s reburial in 1840; as such this sheet probably represents an initial idea with regards to reinterpreting Turner’s earlier response to Napoleon quitting Fontainebleau. Napoleon respected Fontainebleau as well situated from a military and political perspective and important as ‘the real abode of Kings, the house of ages’3. In the present study Turner depicts the palace in quick, pale washes, which, although unfinished, nonetheless might be seen as evoking a sense of fading fortunes.
Alfrey 1988, p.41.
Alfrey 1988, pp.41–4.
Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonné comte de Las Cases, Memoirs of the Life, Exile, and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon, vol. 3, New York 1855, p.98.
As the sheet has been laid down on paper, the verso could not be checked at the time of cataloguing.

Elizabeth Jacklin
September 2018

How to cite

Elizabeth Jacklin, ‘Adieu Fontainebleau c.1841–2 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2018, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-adieu-fontainebleau-r1195847, accessed 17 July 2024.