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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Details of Cathedral Towers and Rue de la Grosse-Horloge 1821

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 11 Recto:
Details of Cathedral Towers and Rue de la Grosse-Horloge 1821
Turner Bequest CCLVIII 11
Pencil on white wove paper, 118 x 123 mm
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘11’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLVIII – 11’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The five separate studies on this page were all made in the vicinity of Rouen Cathedral. Across the top half of the page is drawn the tops of the cathedral towers: the Tour St Romanus, Tour de Beurre and part of the central spire. The reason that these studies appear disembodied is that they actually constitute the continuation of the study of the cathedral from folio 22 (Tate D24541; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 22), which was originally bound opposite this page (see the verso of this page; Tate D2451; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 11a). Ian Warrell has pointed out that Turner not only encountered the challenge of encompassing the whole building within a standard landscape format, but that the layout of streets around the cathedral meant that ‘however far back from the façade he stood, he found that he was simply unable to record both its full height and width on one sheet of the sketchbook’. The sketches were made from the opening of the Rue du Petite-Salut, directly opposite the Tour de Beurre. Turner utilised both sketches for his gouache and watercolour design on blue paper of Rouen Cathedral, c.1832 (Tate D24674; Turner Bequest CCLIX 109) engraved for Turner’s Annual Tour, 1834 (Tate T206236).1
With the sketchbook turned to the left and drawn on the inside of the page is a view along one of the streets at the west end of the cathedral, probably the Rue due Gros Horloge looking east towards the spire of the cathedral. Three further sketches at the fore-edge of the page depict the lower part of the Tour de Gros Horloge. Along with folio 10 (Tate D24518; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 10), this sketch contributed to Turner’s c.1832 gouache and watercolour study: Tate D24822 (Turner Bequest CCLIX 257).2 Beneath this is a small sketch of figures, and to the right, drawn with the book turned to the left, is another figure and an architectural detail.
For a list of Turner’s sketches of Rouen in this book, see folio 1 (Tate D24500; Turner Bequest CCLVIII 1).
Warrell 1999, pp.181,184, and p.275 under no.131.
Ibid., pp.176, 272 under no.103.
Technical notes:
The page which was apparently badly ripped out of the sketchbook at some point, has been repaired at the gutter.

Thomas Ardill
February 2013

How to cite

Thomas Ardill, ‘Details of Cathedral Towers and Rue de la Grosse-Horloge 1821 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, August 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-details-of-cathedral-towers-and-rue-de-la-grosse-horloge-r1146307, accessed 23 January 2022.