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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner View of a River from a Terrace: ?Mâcon c.1810-15

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
View of a River from a Terrace: ?Mâcon circa 1810–15
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Y
Watercolour on white wove paper laid on similar paper, 232 x 332 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Henry Vaughan by 1878
(see main catalogue entry)
This drawing has traditionally been categorised as an unengraved design for the Liber Studiorum, and linked with Turner’s large oil painting The Festival upon the Opening of the Vintage at Macon, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1803 (Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust),1 which had left his studio in 1804. The painting is based on studies in the Calais Pier sketchbook (Tate D04956, D05018–D05019; Turner Bequest LXXXI 54, 116–117), in turn derived from on a slight drawing in the France, Savoy, Piedmont sketchbook (Tate D04411; Turner Bequest LXXIII 19) made on Turner’s first Continental tour in 1802, and inscribed ‘Macon’; as has now been recognised, the latter drawing in fact shows Tournus, also on the Saône but some miles to the north.2
Despite the basic overall similarity of the compositions, each centred on the bend of a river and a bridge, the connection has been questioned on the grounds of their otherwise considerable differences.3 In the painting, the wide expanse of the foreground is populated by numerous small-scale figures, whereas the drawing’s half-ruined terrace and arches have the more intimate air of an abandoned garden. The central motif of a river bend seen from wooded heights, informed by the famous view of the Thames from Richmond Hill, is the basis of later oils such as Thomson’s Aeolian Harp, exhibited in 1809 (Manchester Art Gallery),4 England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday, exhibited in 1819 (Tate N00502)5 and the upright Devon composition Crossing the Brook, exhibited in 1815 (Tate N00497).6 As has been noted, these may have been informed by Claude Lorrain’s painting (or its engraving) Jacob with Laban and his Daughters (Petworth House, West Sussex),7 itself imitated by Turner in oils as Apullia in Search of Appullus vide Ovid, exhibited in 1814 (Tate N00495),8 and later engraved for the Liber Studiorum, though not published.9
The watercolour belonged to Henry Vaughan by 1878,10 and in 1896 Frank Short etched and mezzotinted the composition,11 as one of his interpretations of the unengraved Liber designs (Tate T05070;12 see general Liber introduction).
Butlin and Joll, 1984, pp.36–7 no.47, pl.55 (colour).
David Hill, Turner in the Alps: The Journey through France & Switzerland in 1802, London 1992, pp.25, 27, 29.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.36.
Ibid., pp.64–5 no.86, pl.96 (colour).
Ibid., pp.106–7 no.140, pl.145 (colour).
Ibid., pp.93–4 no.130, pl.123 (colour).
See ibid., pp.36, 65, pl.567.
Ibid., pp.91–2 no.128, pl.134.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.144–5 no.72; 1906, pp.169–70 no.72; Alexander J. Finberg, The History of Turner’s Liber Studiorum with a New Catalogue Raisonné, London 1924, pp.287–90 no.72.
Rawlinson 1878, p.170.
Hardie 1938, p.70 no.37, reproduced p.[111] pl.XVI.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.76.
Technical notes:
There was no pencil work or initial wash. Washes with the lights reserved were followed by brushwork, and more washes with delicate scratching out for the highlights. The overall mid-brown colour results from the use of a burnt sienna pigment.1 The near-vertical, washed-out strokes forming radiating rays descending in the sky, are difficult to make out, but are emphasised in Short’s engraving (see above). Turner’s linear handling of the foliage and architecture – ‘the points he lingered over and brought more closely to the effect he would aim at in the engraving’2 – resembles that in the Liber drawings for Berry Pomeroy Castle and Isleworth, datable to the first half of the 1810s (Tate D08159, D08163; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII E, I). There is another Claudian, Italianate garden with a balustrade among the unengraved Liber-type drawings (Tate D40045; Turner Bequest CXVIII h).
The sheet is among five unengraved Liber-type drawings once owned by Henry Vaughan of which four ‘certainly, and all five probably, derive from the “Studies for Liber” sketchbook’,3 some leaves of which are watermarked ‘J Whatman | 1807’ (Tate; Turner Bequest CXV); the others are Tate D08180–D08183; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII Z, a, b, c. The sheet matches the full height of that sketchbook’s pages, but has been trimmed, apparently at both sides, losing some 49mm in width if it originated there; it has been laid down on thicker paper, trimmed to the edge.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Sparrow 1903, p.M W iii.
Forrester 1996, pp.16, 25 note 86 (analysis by Peter Bower, acknowledged p.8); however, Bower, Tate conservation files, lists the other four but not the present sheet in association with the sketchbook.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘Original Drawing. R.92 | [ from this No onwards and for’ top left, ‘92’ and ‘D08179’ bottom left, and CXVIII | Y’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – Y’ bottom left
Thin tape and the residue of former mounting are evident all round the edges of the sheet.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘View of a River from a Terrace: ?Mâcon c.1810–15 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 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-view-of-a-river-from-a-terrace-macon-r1131789, accessed 20 July 2024.