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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Figures Waiting near a Diligence 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 32 Verso:
Figures Waiting near a Diligence 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIII 32 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 185 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘R’ within sketch of figure, centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner journeyed through France and northern Italy by diligence, a public stagecoach where the luggage was kept covered by canvas on the roof. Described as the ‘cheapest, and perhaps the most convenient for men of business and single gentlemen,1 these large horse-drawn vehicles followed prescribed routes between staging posts and connected most of the major towns in France. Fares could be booked ahead in stages and it is likely that Turner arranged his travel in Calais, Paris, Lyon and Chambéry respectively.2 Each coach could carry up to fourteen passengers and in the French diligence there were four places for people to sit: the coupé, or front compartment of the interior, generally believed to be the most desirable location; the berline, or middle part of the interior; the rotonde, or back of the interior, the least recommended placing, described by one guidebook as a ‘receptacle of dust, dirt and bad company’; and finally, the banquette or imperial, which was outside at the front of the carriage above the coupé.3
This sketch depicts a diligence with a mixed group of men and women waiting beside it, presumably Turner’s fellow travellers waiting to set off for the day. The location is unknown although in this part of the sketchbook the subjects tend to alternate between views on the River Saône (where the artist was journeying by boat) and mountainous scenery (possibly the ascent to the Pass of Mont Cenis). The study may therefore have been drawn during the latter. For an inscription by Turner concerning a conversation in a diligence see folio 2 (D13992). Sketches of these vehicles frequently feature within Turner’s European sketchbooks (see for example Tate D13010; Turner Bequest CLXII 8) and he even made them the subject of a couple of watercolours.4

Nicola Moorby
March 2013

William Coxe, Galignani’s Travellers Guide through France, Paris 1819, p.xxix.
See Powell 1987, p.21.
Brockendon’s Road Book from London to Naples, London 1835, pp.11–12.
See for example Messieurs le voyageurs on their Return from Italy (par la diligence) in a Snow Drift upon Mount Tarra – 22nd January, 1829, watercolour, exhibited 1829 (British Museum). Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.345 no.405, pl.208.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Figures Waiting near a Diligence 1819 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, August 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-figures-waiting-near-a-diligence-r1142901, accessed 24 January 2021.