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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The River Seine, Looking West from the Barrière des Bonshommes at Passy, Paris 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 4 Recto:
The River Seine, Looking West from the Barrière des Bonshommes at Passy, Paris 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIII 4
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 185 mm
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIII 4’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The former Tate curator and Turner expert, Ian Warrell has identified the subject of this sketch as the Barrière de Bonshommes at Passy in Paris.1 Turner’s view looks down-river (west) from the north bank of the River Seine and a very small part of the composition spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 3 verso (D13996). The artist seems to have approached this part of the river from the Pont de la Concorde to the east and Warrell has suggested that he may have taken a carriage from here to St-Cloud.2 For a more detailed description of Turner’s Parisian sketches see folio 2 (D13993).
The Barrière de Bonshommes (also sometimes known as the Barrière de Passy) was one of a number of gates erected at the end of the eighteenth century as part of the Mur des Fermiers généraux (Wall of the Farmers-General), a city wall built to ensure toll payments on goods entering Paris. The gates were characterised by neo-classical pavilions designed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806), and the structure at Passy, which represented the entrance to the city on the north bank of the Seine, was flanked by large statues standing on square pillars symbolising Brittany and Normandy.3 Turner’s sketch is rather rough and lacking in detail but clearly shows the pavilion on the right-hand side with one of the statues beside it. The gate was demolished during the mid-nineteenth century.4
A more detailed study of the barrière looking up-river can be found on folio 14 (D14013), whilst a later drawing can be found in the Paris and Environs sketchbook, 1832 (Tate D24473; Turner Bequest CCLVII 156). Turner eventually developed the subject as one of his watercolour illustrations for Turner’s Annual Tour, 1835:Wanderings by the Seine (see Tate D24682; Turner Bequest CCLIX 117).5

Nicola Moorby
February 2013

Warrell 1999, p.18.
For a contemporary view showing the position of the two statues see a watercolour by J.L.G.B. Palaiseau, Barrière de Passy, 1819 (Bibliothèque nationale de France), reproduced on line at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b77436636.item.f1.langFR .
For a photograph of the barrière prior to demolition see Allan Braham, The Architecture of the French Enlightenment, London 1989, p.194, fig.255.
See Warrell 1999, pp.230–1.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘The River Seine, Looking West from the Barrière des Bonshommes at Passy, Paris 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 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-the-river-seine-looking-west-from-the-barriere-des-r1142856, accessed 25 June 2024.