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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Vignette Study of a Battle or Fire, Possibly for Campbell's 'Poetical Works' c.1835-6

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Vignette Study of a Battle or Fire, Possibly for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’ c.1835–6
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 296
Watercolour on white wove paper, 151 x 245 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘296’ bottom right
Inscribed in pencil ‘CCLXIII’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 296’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This rapidly worked, loose composition suggests fire, smoke, silhouetted buildings and perhaps figures in the foreground. Acknowledging unpublished notes by Ian Warrell, Eric Shane has tentatively suggested it as a vignette design for an episode from Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon (1834), although it does not evoke any of the published compositions.1 The only preliminary watercolour study noted by Meredith Gamer as possibly related to the book is Tate D27590 (Turner Bequest CCLXXX 73), a stormy landscape comparable to a Waterloo subject.
Although not catalogued as such by Gamer when compiling the present section of the catalogue (almost entirely from Turner Bequest section CCLXXX), on the grounds of style and apparent subject the present sheet has now been placed provisionally among the often equally spontaneous exploratory designs she has linked to Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works (1837). Compare particularly the battle scenes, Tate D27522, D27562, D27566 and D27573 (Turner Bequest CCLXXX 5, 45, 49, 56), and an indeterminate fiery subject (Tate D27584; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 67).
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, pp.430–2 nos.1102–1117.
Blank; a near-vertical fold, 34 mm from the top left corner and 38 mm from the bottom left, does not impinge on the area of the composition on the recto.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Vignette Study of a Battle or Fire, Possibly for Campbell’s ‘Poetical Works’ c.1835–6 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, October 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-vignette-study-of-a-battle-or-fire-possibly-for-campbells-r1182320, accessed 28 May 2024.