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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Lillebonne, The Château from above the Roman Amphitheatre c.1832

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Lillebonne, The Château from above the Roman Amphitheatre c.1832
Turner Bequest CCLIX 111
Gouache and watercolour on blue paper, 140 x 192 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLIX – 111’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
By J.T. Willmore in 1833, published in 1834.
In this watercolour, Turner presents Lillebonne castle in northern France, dramatically perched on a hill. The castle’s central towers are emphasised gleaming white in the moonlight against the blue sky and surrounding green hills, the white stone echoed in the buildings at lower right. A thin crescent moon and star just below it appear at top right. In the foreground Turner shows the remains of the Roman amphitheatre at Lillebonne. The amphitheatre’s ruined tiers of seating cascade down in the foreground from right to left. A pathway encircles the castle, leading the viewer’s eye around the landscape. A procession is taking place on the lower part of the path in the foreground. It is the end of the day and soldiers pass under the ruins of a castle and amphitheatre, evoking a sense of activities over and glories past.
The watercolour is based on sketches (Tate D23776 and D23779; Turner Bequest CCLIII 40, 41a)1 in Turner’s Tancarville and Lillebonne sketchbook2 believed to date from 1829. Further pages (D23764, D23766, D23782–D23783; CCLIII 34, 35, 43, 43a) also provide informative views of the structure of the amphitheatre and may also have been consulted.
An engraving was made from the watercolour by J.T. Willmore in 1833, as Lillebonne (titled ‘Lillebonne, Chateau’ in the List of Engravings, Tate impressions T04703, T05600, T06229 and T06230), for the volume Wanderings by the Seine of 1834.3 Elements of the scene have been rendered in greater detail in the engraving, in particular the livestock in the foreground; the procession of soldiers carrying flags; the path on the right; the moonlight picking out the edge of the hill above it; and, barely indicated in the watercolour, trails of smoke from two fires at the top of the hill in the left background.
Warrell 1999, p.274.
Wilton 1979, p.413.
Leitch Ritchie, Wanderings by the Seine, London, Paris and Berlin 1834, opposite p.76.
Blank, except for an inscription ‘11’ in pencil in the left corner of the sheet, and below this, running vertically upwards, is written ‘Lillebonne | with the Roman Amphitheatre’ in pencil, both inscriptions probably made by Turner. There are some pencil marks which appear to be a signature reading ‘Willmore’ at the bottom of the right corner of the sheet. The lower centre of the sheet is stamped with the Turner Bequest monogram above the number ‘CCLIX – 111’, which is also written in pencil above at the centre of the sheet.

Caroline South
November 2017

How to cite

Caroline South, ‘Lillebonne, The Château from above the Roman Amphitheatre c.1832 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, November 2019, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-lillebonne-the-chateau-from-above-the-roman-amphitheatre-r1195803, accessed 08 August 2022.