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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figurehead of the 'Victory' 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 19 Verso:
Figurehead of the ‘Victory’ 1805
Turner Bequest LXXXIX 27a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 184 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘978’ bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Despite Finberg’s dismissive description, this is clearly a sketch of the figurehead of the Victory. In place at Trafalgar was a carving made by George Williams in 1801 and fitted, during repairs to the ship, as a replacement to the more elaborate original figurehead dating from 1765. The replacement, of which a replica remains today, comprised the royal arms (incorporating the escutcheon of Hanover) surmounted by the royal crown and supported by a cherub with a blue sash (starboard side) and a seraph with a red one (port side). At Trafalgar, the starboard figure lost a leg and the port, an arm. Turner’s sketch is too small and cursory to show the damage in detail, but the subject is recognisable nonetheless.

David Blayney Brown
March 2006

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Figurehead of the ‘Victory’ 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 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-figurehead-of-the-victory-r1139269, accessed 21 June 2024.