Lot 346
  • 346

Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A.

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A.
  • Brussels, A distant View
  • watercolour, heightened with gum arabic and scratching out
together with the line engraving on steel, by William Miller after the watercolour (R. 519), 145 by 206 mm., unframed


H.A.J. Munro of Novar  (1797-1864);
his sale, London, Christie's, 2 June 1877, lot 9, 187 gns. to Cox;
the property of a New York Estate bequeathed to an Eastern University;
their sale, London, Christie's, 12 April 1994, lot 54, to the present owner


W. Armstrong, Turner, London, 1902, p. 244;
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner R.A., vol. II, London, 1913, pp. 202, 286, no. 519;
A. Wilton, The Life and Works of J.M.W. Turner, London, 1979, p. 430, no. 1096 (as untraced);
G. Finley, Landscapes of Memory: Turner as Illustrator to Scott, London, 1980, pp. 202-3;
C. Powell, Turner's Rivers of Europe: The Rhine, Meuse and Mosel, London, 1991, pp. 113-4, under no. 26


by William Miller, 1834, for The Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, Volume V, 1834


Support This small drawing is on a wove 'Whatman' type paper. At present, it is inlaid into another sheet for full display, this is hinged into an overlay mount. The condition of the paper is good. There are four thinned areas visible in transmitted light, which may have been areas where fox marks had developed in the past and had been removed. The verso is a little stained. Medium The watercolour and gum arabic medium is in a good state, though the washes maybe a little faded in the more delicate tints. Note: This work was viewed outside studio conditions. Condition Report by Jane McAusland (Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works)
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In this exquisitely drawn landscape Turner demonstrates his sheer technical brilliance as a draughtsman even on the smallest scale. Retained in exceptional condition this watercolour is a rare jewel - the only traced work of only two views which Turner painted of Brussels. This picture draws the viewer into an idyllic pastoral scene which denies any evidence of the recent ravages of the Napoleonic wars which had swept through Europe and instead offers a timeless inviting and easily recognisable illustration of Belgian landscape with Brussels beyond.

Although Brussels was noted for its grand buildings, it was even more admired for its situation. In Turner's copy of Charles Campbell's Guide Through Belgium and Holland, 1817, it was clearly stated that, 'there are few cities where the surrounding country is so beautiful as that about Brussels,' and 'the rising grounds, intersected by rills about the environs of this charming place, would almost persuade one that Brussels was placed here merely for the purpose of adding to the ornaments of Art the beauties of Nature.' Campbell went on to describe the environs on the route to Waterloo from Brussels with such poetic descriptions of pastoral charm that it is no surprise that Turner relished the opportunity to sketch all of the area as he himself passed through this area on his 1817 tour clutching Campbells guide. Turner filled the Waterloo and Rhine sketchbook Turner Bequest, Tate Britain (TB CLX10v-13v) with accurate sketches of the topography as well as notes on the historical importance of this landscape.

The war against France had commenced in 1793 when Turner was only seventeen and did not end until 1815 when he was aged forty. This monumental event had also dominated the life of the young Walter Scott who also visited this area in 1815 and not only extensively reported the detail of recent events in France and Flanders in letters to his family, but also noted more domestic matters such as the cleanliness and costumes of Flemish cottage-folk, romantic local songs and recollections of women having to work in the fields whilst men had been at war. These letters were later published in The Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart... in Edinburgh and London in 1834 and it was for this publication that almost twenty years later Turner was commissioned to paint this watercolour which was to be engraved by William Miller for the frontispiece of Volume V. Interestingly this illustration of Brussels is composed of a combination of the topography from Turner's earlier sketchbooks mentioned above and Scott's prose. Turner reassures the readers of the book and the viewer of this work (and the accompanying print) that this area of Belgium is peaceful, pastoral and idyllic, an area where farm workers can luxuriate in the beautiful weather whilst working in the fields. War is now but a distant memory.