Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Study for Unidentified Vignettes: Wreck Buoy, Gurnet, Dogfish, and Plaice circa 1835
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 342
Watercolour on board, 203 x 155 mm
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII 342’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Four Screens, British Museum, London, July 1936–February 1937 (no catalogue but numbered 1).
Turner and the Sea: Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Loaned by the British Museum, Tate Gallery, London, January–June 1982 (no catalogue).
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings in the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.II, p.841, as ‘Study of a buoy, gurnet and dogfish’.
John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, pp.230, 231 reproduced in colour, fig.317 top right.
The subject of this vignette combines landscape elements with a carefully composed still-life. The scene shows a stormy, choppy sea with a catch of fish including gurnet, dogfish, and plaice arrayed in the foreground. The illustration belongs to a group of four finished designs that Turner produced for an unidentified project (see also Tate D27520
; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 3, Tate D27521
; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 4 and Tate D25466
; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 343). The other designs retain a similar format and depict lobsters and crabs, cod and red snapper, and mackerel respectively. None of the watercolours was ever engraved for publication. For a detailed discussion of the group see Tate D27520
; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 3
The other object in the foreground of the watercolour is a green wreck buoy with its chain float. A wreck buoy is a life-saving marker which warns ships of wrecked vessels lying unseen underneath the waves. The device formed the subject and title of one of Turner’s exhibited oil seascapes, The Wreck Buoy
, originally painted circa 1807 and reworked 1849 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).1
Like this vignette composition, the painting features a green buoy with the word ‘Wreck’ partially visible, and a dark stormy sky divided by the hint of a rainbow.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘91 | a’ centre right and ‘CCLXIII.342’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII 342’ bottom left
How to cite
Meredith Gamer, ‘Study for Unidentified Vignettes: Wreck Buoy, Gurnet, Dogfish, and Plaice c.1835 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, revised by Nicola Moorby, August 2008, 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-unidentified-vignettes-wreck-buoy-gurnet-dogfish-r1133877, accessed 17 May 2022.