The present watercolour is a study for The Wreck, circa, 1835, private collection, illustrated in A. Wilton, The Life and Works of J.M.W. Turner, London and Fribourg, 1979, no. 1304. It was executed for and published in The Keepsake, 1836, p. 273, to illustrate the poem by E. Howard:
Onward the vessel bears, like some huge chief, Who, press'd by numbers, slowly shuns the fray; Sternly defying the appalling reef She flings aside, as if in scorn, its spray. But still urged slowly on her desp'rate way By wave succeeding wave, the rock she nears;
The waters round in eddying whirlpools play,
She strikes! she groans! the yawning rent appears!
Whilst o'er her pride the sea, its crest triumphant rears.
In the present watercolour the crags, mother and lifeboat are clearly visible and relate directly to the engraved version (W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., 2 vols. London, 1908, no. 334). For the engraving see J. Piggott, Turner's Vignettes, London, 1993, no. 147.
We are grateful to Dr Jan Piggott for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.