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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Buckingham Palace c.1828

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?Buckingham Palace c.1828
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 162
Watercolour on white wove paper, 295 x 443 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘162’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 162’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg suggested that this colour study represented Hampton Court Palace, seen from the River Thames, presumably on account of its loose correlation with the watercolour Hampton Court Palace of about 1827 (private collection),1 engraved in 1829 for the Picturesque Views in England and Wales (Tate impressions: T04550). The Turner scholar C.F. Bell’s suggestion that it is instead a view of Buckingham Palace in central London2 has been noted and taken up by later commentators Michael Spender, Lindsay Stainton and Eric Shanes.3 Together with Tate D25283 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161), Finberg noted that it apparently represents ‘the same subject seen under two different effects’.4 Tate D25310 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 188) is a third close variation (which Finberg also thought showed Hampton Court), while Tate D25151 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 29) may show the same building in the distance; Finberg suggested that Tate D25309 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 187) was yet another Hampton Court view;5 although it was once part of the same sheet as the current work (see the technical notes below), the execution is rougher and the composition (albeit of a building beyond water) some way removed from the completed Hampton Court watercolour and the other ‘Buckingham Palace’ colour studies.6
Shanes has suggested that this and the three works specified above are all studies for an undeveloped view of Buckingham Palace for England and Wales.7 As he notes, the building ‘sported a dome for a short time in the 1820s’,8 when the former Buckingham House was redeveloped in palatial, classical style by John Nash (1752–1832) for King George IV (1820–1830).9 There are engravings made around 1830 showing the palace in this intermediate state: The Garden Front of the King’s Palace in Pimlico from the west, across the lake in its gardens, by Thomas Higham (1796–1844), and The King’s Palace, Pimlico from the east, across the lake in St James’s Park, after Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1793–1864) (both London Metropolitan Archives). The engraving from the west in particular shows the central dome and four flanking rectangular attic pavilions; the latter were presumably demolished when the dome was replaced by the present central rectangular attic floor before 1847.10
Turner had recorded the west side of Buckingham House and its gardens before its aggrandisement in a panoramic drawing made in the late 1810s from the adjacent London home of his Yorkshire patron and friend and Walter Fawkes, in the Skies sketchbook (Tate D12523, Tate D12524; Turner Bequest CLVIII 67a–68), the basis of the watercolour London, from the Windows of 45 Grosvenor Place of about 1819 (private collection),11 but there are no identified sketches of the palace as such.
Shanes has compared the present study with a pencil drawing in the Isle of Wight sketchbook of around 1827 (Tate D20734; Turner Bequest CCXXVII 1a),12 a river scene with trees and distant buildings, but any slight resemblance is probably fortuitous. This work, D25283 and D25310 focus on the silhouette of a building with a central dome and flanking rectangular projections on the skyline, which correlate fairly well with Nash’s design, giving a sense of a more symmetrical, classical building compared to the varied, irregular silhouette of Hampton Court seen in the England and Wales composition. The Buckingham Palace identification is nevertheless likely to remain speculative, owing to the slightness of these colour studies.
See also the introductions to the present subsection of identified but unrealised subjects and the overall England and Wales ‘colour beginnings’ grouping to which this work has been assigned.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.395 no.812.
MS note in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, II, p.826.
Spender 1980, p.168; Stainton 1983, p.[84]; Shanes 1997, pp.95, 96, 99 and see also pp.19, 105.
Finberg 1909, II, p.826.
Ibid., p.828.
See Shanes 1997, where it is listed as follows: p.101 (Appendix I) under ‘River Scenes, Unidentified’, p.105 (Appendix II), as ‘Sketch: unidentifiable view’.
Shanes 1997, p.19.
See ‘History [of Buckingham Palace]’, The British Monarchy, accessed 19 March 2013, http://www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidences/BuckinghamPalace/History.aspx.
Wilton 1979, pp.356–7 no.498, reproduced.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 96, 99.
Technical notes:
The paper is heavily stained in places, where the washes appear to have deteriorated, notably above the building(s) on the skyline.
Finberg noted: ‘Nos. 161 and 162 [the present work and Tate D25283 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161)] are one sheet of paper, folded in halves. They represent the same subject seen under two different effects. The size of the paper is 23 x 17 ¼ [inches].’1 The two have since been separated along a straight edge, D25283 having been above the present work. D25283 is watermarked ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mill | 1825’.
In fact, as Eric Shanes has noted,2 they were originally two quarters of a still larger sheet, along with Tate D25309 and D25310 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 187, 188). All four compositions were worked on the same side of the sheet. At top left was D25283, at bottom left the present work, at top right (with the composition inverted) D25309 and at bottom right D25310:
D25283 (CCLXIII 161)D25309 (CCLXIII 187) inverted
D25284 (CCLXIII 162)D25310 (CCLXIII 188)
The top left, bottom left and bottom right quadrants must all have been worked on together initially: D25283 and the present work remained joined up to Finberg’s time, and the wash at the bottom left of D25310 carries over a little onto the present work.
The left and right halves appear to have been separated by Turner, leaving slightly irregular, matching torn edges, since the present work and D25310 (the lower quadrants) had been worked on side by side, but the washes carried right to the corresponding edges of D24283 and D25309 (the upper quadrants) are not carried over in either direction, implying that were worked on after being divided.
With the left and right halves separated, Turner then worked on D25309 (the upper right quadrant) upside down in relation to D25310 (the bottom right). They were subsequently separated freehand using a knife, leaving crisp but not quite straight corresponding edges, a thin arc of wash from the sky of D25309 remaining along the top of D25310, indicating that the two were worked on while still joined.
Finberg 1909, II, p.826.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 96, 99.
Blank, save for inscriptions at bottom right: in pencil ‘AB 150 P’; and stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 162’.
The ‘AB’ number corresponds with the endorsement on one of the parcels of works sorted by John Ruskin during his survey of the Turner Bequest, in this case classified by him as ‘Colour dashes on white. Valueless’.1

Matthew Imms
March 2013

Transcribed in Finberg 1909, II, p.814.

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?Buckingham Palace c.1828 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-buckingham-palace-r1144319, accessed 28 May 2024.