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 188
Watercolour on white wove paper, 278 x 438 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘188’ bottom right
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram below centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 188’ 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 taken up by Eric Shanes.3 Tate D25283 and D25284 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161, 162) are close variations (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;4 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.5
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.6 As he notes, the building ‘sported a dome for a short time in the 1820s’,7 when the former Buckingham House was redeveloped in palatial, classical style by John Nash (1752–1832) for King George IV (1820–1830).8 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 1847.9
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),10 but there are no identified sketches of the palace as such.
This work, D25283 and D25284 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. Gerald Wilkinson called this one a ‘“beginning” – rather a promising one, I should have thought, but perhaps Turner decided it was too symmetrical?’11
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.828.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 96, 99 and see also pp.19, 105.
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.
Wilkinson 1975, p.112.
Technical notes:
Finberg noted: ‘Nos. 161 and 162 [Tate D25283 and D25384 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 161, 162)] 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 D25284. In fact, as Eric Shanes has noted,2 they were originally two quarters of a still larger sheet, along with Tate D25309 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 187) and the present work. D25283 is watermarked ‘J Whatman | Turkey Mill | 1825’. All four compositions were worked on the same side of the sheet. At top left was D25283, at bottom left D25284, at top right (with the composition inverted) D25309 and at bottom right the present work:
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 D25284 remained joined up to Finberg’s time, and the wash at the bottom left of the present work carries over a little onto D25284.
The left and right halves appear to have been separated by Turner, leaving slightly irregular, matching torn edges, since D25284 and the present work (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 the present work (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 the present work, indicating that the two were worked on while still joined.
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.
Finberg 1909, II, p.826.
Shanes 1997, pp.95, 96, 99.
Blank, save for inscriptions at bottom right: ‘AB 154 P O’; stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram above ‘CCLXIII – 188’; and in pencil ‘CCLXIII | 188’.

Matthew Imms
March 2013

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-r1144320, accessed 20 May 2024.