Watercolour on paper, size unknown
Turner catalogues: Wilton no.88; tdb3091
This composition is the second of fifteen subjects by Turner that were engraved for publication in The Copper Plate Magazine. The plate was engraved by J Storer and appeared in volume 2, as pl.67, bearing the publication date of 1 November 1794. The original watercolour of this composition appears to be untraced.
The subject is Chepstow, Wales, as seen from the north across the river Wye. The scene is recognisable today, albeit somewhat interfered with by the growth of trees and modern building, but the bridge shown by Turner was replaced in 1816 by one of iron, which has survived to celebrate its recent bicentenary.
No pencil sketch of this subject is known but the Turner Bequest has two pencil sketches of Chepstow Castle that are dated to a visit of 1792. Presumably the drawing for this subject was made at the same time.
Two watercolours of the composition are known. The first is at the Courtauld Institute Galleries, London [tdb0238] and was catalogued by Wilton 1979 as his no.88. This has been identified by Wilton et seq as the engraved subject. Whilst there is a close relationship, the watercolour and engraving vary in almost every particular.
Wilton 1979 mentions a reference in Finberg’s index to a watercolour of this subject with a Monro – Leaf – Heron provenance. This watercolour was rediscovered by Cheffins in 2023 [tdb2081]. However, as Cheffins 2023 note, its composition differs from the Copper-Plate Magazine engraving even more than does the Courtauld watercolour. Neither in truth can have been the basis of the engraving, It must be that the original version of his composition by Turner remains untraced. It certainly warrants a separate entry in this database.
Cheffins 2023 firmly establish the Monro-Leaf-Heron provenance for their watercolour. Armstrong 1902 identifies the engraved drawing with that in the Heron sale, 1890, and Rawlinson 1908 concurs. Given that the variations with the engraving are larger than even in the Courtauld watercolour, those associations must now be set aside as mistaken.
Wilton 1979 no.88 also gives a reference to an anon sale at Fosters 19 November 1860 no.88 as Chepstow Castle and Bridge, bt in, which he says ‘looks more like the subject for engraving’. Wilton does not give the grounds for his surmise but Thornbury 1862 p.405 reports the 1859 Chambers sale as ‘Chepstow Castle and Bridge. (Slight sketch.) £15. Mr Gambart.’ The Chambers sale featured a number of subjects that had been commissioned for Harrison &Co and John Walker projects, and on those grounds the watercolour engraved for The Copper-plate Magazine is almost certainly to be identified with the Chambers 1859 reference.
There are several other references which do not appear to relate to the Cheffins watercolour. Which of these might be related to the Courtauld version, and which to the postulated original, remains to be established.
?Charles Stokes (1853) d.1853 and by descent to his niece
?Hannah Cooper by whom sold 1858 to
?R. Chambers, to
?Christie’s 29 March 1859 (7, as ‘Chepstow Castle and Bridge’), bought for £15 by
?Foster’s 19 November 1860 (88, as ‘Chepstow Castle and Bridge’), ?bt. In;
Publications and Exhibitions:
Engraved by J. Storer dated I November 1794 as ‘Chepstow’ for the Copper Pate Magazine, and issued in vol.2, pl.67.
The Itinerant, 1799, reworked re-issue of 1794 plate;
?Charles Stokes MSS 1853 as ‘Chepstow Bridge, 1794’;
Miller 1854, pl.2
?Thornbury 1862 p.405 (and 1877 p.607) reporting the 1859 Chambers sale as ‘Chestow Castle and Bridge. (Slight sketch.) £15. Mr Gambart.’;
Rawlinson 1908, no.2 [where identified with watercolour formerly in collection of William Leaf]
Wilton 1979, No. 88 as ‘Chepstow Castle c.1793’, [where identified with Courtauld Institute watercolour, repr b/w]
3 thoughts on “Chepstow Bridge and Castle. Called ‘Chepstow’, c.1793”
Thanks for publishing this on the newly (re)discovered Turner of Chepstow. I was very interested in the possible Monro provenance. I have a reference from Alexander Monro’s sale at Christie’s – 19 May 1845, no.140 of a ‘Chepstow Bridge and Castle – a capital drawing’. Alexander bought material at Dr Thomas Monro’s posthumous sale or equally he might have inherited it. Certainly its size and prominent signature and date would suggest an early commission rather than a drawing made for engraving.
Thank you for adding this. The Monro provenance for the Cheffins watercolour looks solid, but there does seem to be plenty of room in it to add the Alexander Monro sale. There is still something of a gap to fill between the 1845 sale and Leaf exhibiting the watercolour at the International exhibition in 1862, although we don’t know when Leaf acquired it. Do we know who bought it at the 1845 sale?
Sadly not. The copy I consulted was from the Rijksmuseum Research Library, online at Art Sales Catalogues Online and it is not annotated. I meant to check the copy in the Christie’s Archive but that is now very difficult.