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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Two Vignette Studies of Landscapes c.1839

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Two Vignette Studies of Landscapes circa 1839
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 23
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 135 x 133 mm and 115 x 127 mm on off-white London board, 384 x 237 mm
Inscribed in pencil ‘4 | [?of] | 2’ and ‘[?of] Dozen’ bottom left, ascending left-hand edge
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘(23’ bottom right and ruled line along right edge of sheet
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 23’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner painted a number of small landscape studies which appear to be views of Continental locations. Although the rounded and borderless format suggests that they were designed as vignettes, they have not yet been securely identified with any of Turner’s illustration projects. There are a number of such watercolours in the Turner Bequest (see also Tate D27541, D40316, D27542, D27598, D27601, D27613, D27615, D27652, D27653, D27658, D27659; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24, 24 verso, 25, 81, 84, 96, 135, 136, 98, 142).
This sheet contains two small studies. The lower scene is painted in a pale yellow palette and appears to be set at sunrise, while the upper scene (inverted) features a cool red and blue palette and a large full moon. Jan Piggott has suggested the latter may be a view of the Via Mala gorge in Switzerland.1 Turner appears to have composed the two compositions with the intention of later separating them into two sheets; he has left ample space between the two studies in order to do so. In light of the watermark visible on this sheet, the watercolours have been dated circa 1839. The style, palette and subject matter strongly resemble another study in the Bequest and it seems likely that Turner produced them both at around the same time (see Tate D27542; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 25).
Piggott 1993, p.95.
Technical notes:
This sheet bears as a watermark ‘J. Whatman 1839’ and a blind embossed stamp ‘IMPROVED | [Arms of the City of London]| SUPERFINE LONDON BOARD’ bottom right. London Board was a type of artists’ board sold by most colourmen.1
Peter Bower, Turner’s Later Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1820–1851, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.114–5.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 117 P | M’ and ‘CCLXXX 23’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Two Vignette Studies of Landscapes c.1839 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-two-vignette-studies-of-landscapes-r1133862, accessed 26 May 2024.