This is one of the thirty-nine subjects engraved after Turner's watercolours for Picturesque Views of the Southern Coast of England, published in parts between 1814 and 1826. The publishers were William Bernard Cooke and his brother George who between them did most of the engravings. The text was originally to have been written by John Landseer but he ultimately declined, whereupon Turner himself offered to provide a text in verse, making drafts in his 'Devonshire Coast No. 1' Sketchbook of 1811. On Turner's text being submitted by W.B. Cooke to the writer William Combe for editing it was rejected as being almost totally incomprehensible and inappropriate, Combe himself undertaking the task. The project was orginally intended to cover the whole of the English coast but delays restricted the publication to the South Coast. Turner was paid ten guineas for this watercolour, George Cooke twenty-five guineas for the engraving. (For the Southern Coast publication see Finberg, op. cit., 1927; Shanes, op. cit., 1981; and L. Herrmann, Turner Prints, The Engraved Works of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford, 1990, pp. 76-90).
Turner made two tours of the Southern coast of England in connection with the publication, in the summers of 1811 and 1813, completing the finished watercolours on his return to London. He was at Pendennis in 1811 and there are drawings in his 'Ivy Bridge to Penzance' and 'Devonshire Coast No. 1' Sketchbooks. The drawing which relates closest to the present watercolour is in the first of these, partly finished in watercolour (see fig. 1); the same sketchbook also contains a sketch in pencil executed from further away (London, Tate Britain, Turner Bequest, CXXV, pp. 27 and 27a). The smaller 'Devonshire Coast No. 1' Sketchbook contains a smaller pencil sketch from closer to the subject (Turner Bequest, CXXIII, p. 218; for both sketchbooks see A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London, 1909, I, pp. 356 and 352 respectively).
Benjamin Godfrey Windus (1790-1867), who owned the present watercolour by 1840, was one of the most important collectors of Turner's works during the artist's lifetime. He also had major collections of Stothard and Wilkie's works and in his later years was an important patron of the Pre-Raphaelites. A coachmaker by profession, he seems to have made his fortune by selling an opium-based confection for throat infections known as 'Godfrey's Cordial'. He added a library to his house at Tottenham Green for the display of most of his Turners; the library is shown in a watercolour of 1833 by John Scarlett Davis (London, British Museum; see Shanes, loc.cit., 1984, illustrated). Artists and connoisseurs are known to have visited the library from the late 1820s and it was opened to the public one day a week in the 1840s and 1850s; this was particularly helpful to Ruskin in his work on Modern Painters.
Windus lent watercolours by Turner to Cooke's Gallery as early as 1823 and 1824, including another work executed for the Southern Coast series in 1823. In 1840 William Robinson listed some seventy works as being in the library, as well as others in portfolios. In 1841 Windus bought his first two Turner oils, while continuing to acquire his watercolours up to 1845. However, much of his collection was sold by the time of his death, often by private treaty through David White. (For B.G. Windus see Shanes, op.cit., 1984; Whittington, op.cit., 1987; S. Whittington, 'Windus, Turner and Ruskin: New Documents', J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 1993, no. 2, pp. 69-116; T[erry] R[iggs], 'Windus, Benjamin Godfrey', E. Joll, M. Butlin and L. Herrmann, eds., The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford, 2001, pp. 386-7).
Pendennis Castle, outside Falmouth on the southern coast of Cornwall, faces St. Mawes Castle across the Carrick Roads. Like St. Mawes, it was built as part of Henry VIII's defence system and was completed in 1546. It suffered badly in the Civil War, holding out against the Cromwellian forces for five months until supplies ran out. In the foreground Turner has depicted the wreckage of a sailing vessel being worked over by scavangers; this being absent in his preliminary sketch. Turner exhibited an oil painting of St. Mawes at the Pilchard Season, with Pendennis Castle in the distance, at his own gallery in 1812 (M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, New Haven and London, 2nd ed., 1984, p. 87, no. 123, illustrated pl. 129). A similar view of St. Mawes with Pendennis Castle in the distance appears in another of Turner's views for the Southern Coast (Wilton, op. cit., p. 354, no. 473, illustrated; Shanes, op.cit., 1981, p. 27, no. 39, illustrated in colour) and Pendennis Castle also appears in the view of Falmouth Harbour, Cornwall in the same publication (Wilton, op.cit., pp. 351-2, no. 455, illustrated; Shanes, op.cit., 1981, p. 24, no. 25, illustrated in colour). Turner executed a watercolour with a capriccio view of Falmouth showing St. Mawes as seen from the north and Pendennis Castle and Falmouth from the south (Wilton, op.cit., p. 388, no. 762, illustrated; Shanes, op.cit., 1981, p. 38, no. 80, illustrated in colour), circa 1825, engraved in mezzotint by T. Lupton in 1828, for the Ports of England, but ultimately unused.
We are grateful to Martin Butlin for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.