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Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace
pencil and watercolour heightened with gum arabic and with scratching out on wove paper
11 1⁄4 x 15 7⁄8 in. (28.8 x 40.5 cm.)
Commissioned by Charles Heath (1785-1848).
Thomas Griffith (1795-1868), by 1833.
Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1790-1867), by 1839.
Edward Rodgett, of Darwen Bank, Preston, by 1857; his sale; Christie’s, 14 May 1859, lot 44 (160 gns. to Dixon).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 15 March 1990, lot 96.
with Hazlitt, Gooden and Fox, London.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 25 November 2004, lot 131.
with Richard Green, London, until 2006.
Acquired by the present owners in 2012.
Art Union, April 1839, no. 3 (reprinted in Turner Studies, III, no. 2, winter 1984, pp. 55-7).
J. Ruskin, Modern Painters, London, 1843, part II, section II, chapter III, p. 175 (reprinted in E. T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, The Works of John Ruskin, London, 1903, III, p. 308; see also, 1904, XIII, p.l, which transcribes a letter to his father, 23 January 1852, in which he listed Heidelberg among the works he would not wish to buy; (see also Bradley 1955⁄78).
W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London, 1862, II, p. 406, under ‘Collection of E. Rodgett, Esq., of Preston’.
Sir W. Armstrong, Turner, London, 1902, p. 256.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London, 1908, I, p. 134, no. 236.
J. L. Bradley, ed., Ruskins Letters from Venice 1851-2, New Haven, 1955⁄1978, p. 147-148.
E. Shanes, Turners Picturesque Views in England and Wales 1825-1838, London, 1979, p. 154, no. 102.
A. Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, London, 1979, p. 395, no. 812.
E. Shanes, ‘Picture Note: The Library at Tottenham, the Seat of B.G. Windus, showing his collection of Turner watercolours’, Turner Studies, III, no. 2, winter 1984, p. 56.
J. Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner, Appendix II, p. 237, no. 13.
S. Whittington, ‘The Turner Collector: Benjamin Godfrey Windus’, Turner Studies, VII, no. 2, winter 1987, p. 34.
G. Norman, ‘Turner Watercolour Achieves Auction Record’, The Independent, 16 March 1990, p. 4.
E. Shanes, Turners England 1810-38, London, 1990, p. 274, no. 251.
Turner Studies, X, no. 1, 1990, reprinted on back cover.
E. Shanes, ed., ‘Sales’, Turner Studies, X, no. 2, 1990, p. 61.
C. Denison, E. Phimister and S. Wiles, Sketching at Home and Abroad; British Landscape Drawings, 1750-1850, New York, 1992, pp. 46-7, fig. 26.
D. Hill, Turner on the Thames, New Haven, 1993, pp. 153 and 155, fig. 206.
J.R. Piggott, ‘Salerooms Report’, Turner Society News, no. 102, March 2006, p. 9.
London, Piccadilly, The Egyptian Hall, June 1829, no. 13.
London, Moon Boys and Graves, June-July 1833, no.1 (lent by Griffith).
Manchester, Art Treasures, 1857, no. 344 (lent by Rodgett).
London, Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, English Drawings, October-November 1990, no. 54.
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library, Sketching at Home and Abroad, British Landscape Drawings, 1750-1850, 1992, no. 100.
Winona, Minnesota Marine Art Museum, 2012-2022, on long-term loan.
Special notice

This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Lot Essay

Turner’s remarkably vibrant watercolour of Hampton Court Palace offers an unfamiliar view of the former royal residence, glimpsed informally from the river. The viewpoint Turner selected, at the confluence of the Thames and its tributaries the Mole and Ember, allowed him to contrast the building’s architectural styles, making manifest its creation over a period of around two hundred years. Dominating the right side of the image are the rhythmic lines of the South Front, instigated in the late seventeenth century by William III and Mary II, and constructed to a design by the office of Sir Christopher Wren. To its left this imposing Baroque facade meets the crenelated brickwork of the Tudor palace created by Cardinal Wolsey, the turrets of its gateways rising above the roofline. These two historic elements come together in the ‘Little’ Banqueting House, designed for William and Mary by William Talman, which bestrides the palace walls to permit its occupants to look directly onto the river.
It has been suggested that the rotten basket in the foreground evokes a broken crown (Shanes 1979). That visual allusion is perhaps continued in the procession of disputing ducks, which might represent the controversies over the British crown that led to the coronation of William of Orange as king, despite the protests of the Jacobites. In one of his exhibits five years later Turner depicted The Prince of Orange, William III, embarked from Holland, and landed at Torbay, November 4th 1688 (1832, Tate).
Turner had first recorded Hampton Court Palace from this spot in 1805, while exploring the upper reaches of the Thames as part of his endeavour to find a more direct form of naturalism in his picture making. At that stage he transferred the view to canvas in oil paint, setting out the composition very broadly in a limited palette (Tate: NO2963). Turner’s Thames studies proved very fruitful, stimulating numerous options for finished works and important developments in his art, but for some reason he decided not to take the painting any further. It remained unfinished in his studio, only coming to light for the first time at the start of the twentieth century.
This later watercolour, however, was created in the early stages of Turner’s work on an ambitious new topographical partwork – Picturesque Views in England and Wales - that was intended to be published in regular batches of line engravings based on his watercolours. The series was a constant in his working life from 1825 until around 1838, and resulted in over a hundred images that demonstrate his bold innovation and technical bravado. The sky in Hampton Court Palace, for example, generates a vivid impression of churning cumulus on a summer’s afternoon, with the clouds interspersed by dramatic shafts of falling sunlight. To create effects of this kind, Turner channeled his endless observations of the sky through experimental watercolour studies now part of his bequest at Tate Britain (see TB CCLXIII 80; Tate, D25202).
Another of the preliminary watercolours at the Tate, reveals something of how Turner evolved works such as Hampton Court Palace (fig.1). It shows the old wooden bridge that formerly crossed the Thames to bring travellers to the imposing main entrance of the palace, and has since been replaced by a more modern structure that conveys tourists from the adjacent railway station. Turner has advanced the design to a stage where he has established the direction of light, the placing of shadows, and the dominant masses of colour. His studies of this kind are often referred to as ‘colour beginnings’, since they provide a rudimentary framework on which he could steadily resolve his image towards various outcomes.
Comparing the study of the bridge with the much more detailed view of the palace reveals a dependence on the same pigments in each. For example, the warm pink brickwork of the Baroque edifice matches the more solid block representing the inn buildings beside the bridge. And both representations of the still waters of the Thames are infused with a turquoise blue, as if Turner was testing tones while developing the works simultaneously. As with his earlier oil sketch of the palace, Turner eventually left the bridge subject incomplete, presumably recognising it lacked the distinctive landmark and historic associations that would lend commercial appeal.
Pencil sketches for the view of the bridge and Hampton Court Palace can be found in a sketchbook Turner used around 1826-7 (Isle of Wight sketchbook, TB CCXXVII; Tate), charting one or a succession of excursions along the Thames. These activities possibly coincided with, or followed on from the sale of Sandycombe Lodge, the little villa Turner had constructed over a decade earlier for himself and his father in Twickenham, across the river from Richmond. Turner decided to sell it in 1826 when his father’s health necessitated him re-joining the artist’s household in central London. The house sale does not seem to have deterred Turner from returning to the area in the following years. As well as the views at Hampton, he went on to paint watercolours of Richmond, Walton Bridges, Eton College and Windsor Castle for the England and Wales series. As noted already, Turner often worked in batches when developing his designs, going from one to the next while the application of a colour wash was drying. So it seems probable that at least the first of this Thames group (fig.2) was painted simultaneously around 1827 with Hampton Court Palace, which shares its relaxed summer mood and its bright tonal range.
Although Turner found an appreciative market for his watercolours in the 1820s, from a commercial point of view the black and white prints based on his images represented the more significant potential in his collaboration on England and Wales with the publisher Charles Heath. The engravings were an affordable means of introducing Turner’s art (and his name) to a wider audience that could not travel to see the London exhibitions. Over the years Turner worked regularly with many of the same engravers. But Hampton Court Palace was taken on by Charles Westwood, who had no experience of working with him. He was nevertheless evidently considered competent having previously translated the designs for Captain Robert Batty’s French Scenery (1819) and German Scenery (1823), and while engaged on Turner’s watercolour he was employed on Brockedon’s Passes of the Alps (1829-9). Yet while Westwood’s print of Hampton Court Palace is more than adequate, with just a couple of minor modifications (see Shanes, op.cit.), it proved to be one of just two by Turner he completed. Perhaps there was some kind of temperamental disagreement since he afterwards went on to work successfully with Sameul Prout, Pieter de Wint, David Roberts and Edwin Landseer.
It’s already more than thirty years since Turner’s Hampton Court Palace set a new saleroom record for the artist’s work in watercolour. During these decades the status of the Picturesque Views in England and Wales watercolours has continued to rise, reflecting a greater understanding of the ways in which these skilfully crafted works captured the variety of contemporary life at a time of momentous social and industrial change. The insights Turner’s images provide was vividly demonstrated in the recent Tate Britain exhibition, Turner’s Modern World, which has just opened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The exhibition also highlighted that so many of the England and Wales series are now in art gallery or museum collections. In fact perhaps only a quarter of the hundred or so watercolours remain in private hands, and the best of these have been increasingly highly prized (for example, Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, sold Christie’s, London, 10 July 2014, lot 213).
We are grateful to Ian Warrell for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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