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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Study for 'Columbus Setting Sail', Rogers's 'Poems' c.1830-2

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Study for ‘Columbus Setting Sail’, Rogers’s ‘Poems’ circa 1830–2
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 19
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 80 x 125 mm on unwatered cream wove drawing paper, 280 x 322 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘(19’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 19’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Jan Piggott has identified this unfinished watercolour as a preparatory study for Columbus Setting Sail, the second of seven illustrations that Turner produced for Rogers’s long poem, ‘The Voyage of Columbus’. The finished vignette was published as the head-piece to Canto I in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems (see Tate D27706; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 189).
Unlike the final design and another other sketch tentatively related to it (see Tate D27535; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 18), the scene shown here is remarkably sombre. Turner has depicted a moonlit scene with a shadowy tower on a rock lit. Several masts have been added in pencil, possibly the ships departing from Palos, as well as a small town and a distant land mass. The style and medium of this sketch are typical of Turner’s preparatory studies for Rogers’s Poems, which tend to be executed in pencil and light watercolour wash.
Technical notes:
Peter Bower has noted that this study is painted on an unwatered marked cream wove paper drawing, possibly made by John Dickinson at Apsley Mill, Hertfordshire. The deckle edge still visible on part of the sheet reveals that it is machine- rather than hand-made.1
Bower 1999, p.59.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 117 P | M’ and ‘CCLXXX.19’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Study for ‘Columbus Setting Sail’, Rogers’s ‘Poems’ c.1830–2 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 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-study-for-columbus-setting-sail-rogerss-poems-r1133374, accessed 17 October 2019.