Cecilia Powell John Gage Eric Shanes Discovery JMW Turner from James Orrock collection Turner expertise Cecilia Powell John Gage JMW Turner the source:
                                        the "Hand" of deception                    
The Orrock Ehrenbrietstein

Orrock Ehrenbrietstein

on a marbled book-board signed and dated, JMW Turner R.A. 1817 (10 X 12 inches)   

Art World’s Dirty Little Secret
r malcolm setters
graham setters


 "The following story, although not uncommon, often times requires a wizard to explicate. As Chris, my wife so aptly put it: 'a painting is considered guilty until proven innocent,' which is an idea that stems from the often-staged controversy over authenticity. This debate usually leaves a potentially fine painting, injured and discarded--merely a distressed piece of canvas dressed with an ounce or two of paint.

     Dealers, scholars, and curators often blind themselves to a prospective new discovery for fear of falling for a potentially abusive lover – the proverbial ‘fake’! Regrettably, the more beautiful, rare, and important a work is, the more inclined those with the final word are to bury it. Ascribing a work of art to a great master is not for the faint of heart. With fear of litigation, and the potential loss of reputation, it is deemed fool hardy to call a Raphael, a Raphael, unless it has been accepted as such for centuries.

     1964 might be a watershed year for this line of reasoning. This is when Sotheby’s took over the American firm, Parke-Bernet. Faint with fear over being sued, or just down-right shrewd, “one of the first edicts that Peregrine [Pollen of Sotheby’s] had to issue was that Parke-Bernet should refuse to accept any Impressionist or later painting for sale if there was any doubt whatsoever about its authenticity.” [i]

It is easy to see that this in and of itself would have an effect on the market and at the same time strengthen the position of the auction firm’s staff and/or consultants. Whether by plan or happenstance this might have been one of the shrewdest decisions made by Pollen during his tenure with the firm. “In his period of stewardship at Parke-Bernet since Sotheby’s had taken over…Impressionists and modern paintings had, during much of that period, been the most dynamic sector of the art market.” [ii] Limiting supply in the marketplace will have this effect every time.

    Using Raphael as an example is of course a big stretch even for the enthusiastic and well-heeled collector. When we move a few centuries closer and down the scale of rarity to a time when more art was being produced for a broader public, it becomes more reasonable to expect that on occasion an un-catalogued treasure might surface as a jewel of discovery. It could have originally been sold or presented by the artist: to family, friend, or patron, and subsequently been passed down in the family, never acquiring traceable documentation.

Our focus here is a little oil sketch painted on an early nineteenth century book board. It was bought at auction over the Internet from a Bond Street dealer. There was an unexpected amount of competition for it, and to everybody’s surprise and my chagrin, this tattered piece of cardboard sold at 4 times its reserve. Britpic, the seller, said that they had purchased it through Christie’s and that it had sold to them as an Italianate scene in the style of Turner. It was signed and dated 1817, a date after which Turner and a select group of other artists were starting to brighten their palettes. At times these artists were derogatorily referred to as the ‘white painters’.

     Once the anxious wait for its arrival from London was over, and my battle with the tight swaddling the dealer had used to protect it was won, my eyes wandered candidly over the foundling’s scumbled surface. Although expecting certain disappointment I was astounded to find everything I had hoped for and more. The vintage book-board support had not been mentioned in the auction listing but was a nice discovery. It is known that Turner was infamous for working on any available scrap including the book boards of his sketchbooks.[1] Ruskin became aware of this while investigating the vast number of drawings in the Turner Bequest, he noted: “with two sketches on the boards at the beginning and end.”[iii] At one point, as Turner told his friend Trimmer, he even “painted a certain picture on a tablecloth.”[iv]

Book board support for  the oil-sketch, Orrock Ehrenbrietstein


An ultraviolet light, or black light as it is often called, confirmed that the signature was ‘right’; it was at least vintage to the artwork itself. If the signature had been added at a later point it would have fluoresced differently and the tone of it would have been considerably different from the rest of the painting. The old finish was also untouched and had a uniform silvery appearance, including the area over the signature. This guaranteed everything was under the antique varnish with no later additions.

The vintage signature I.M.W. Turner R.A. 1817 (much enlarged)    

The key to the whole puzzle
was found on the backing paper of its late nineteenth century frame. It was an inventory sticker, No. 157 - dated 1884. Besides being temporarily owned by Britpic and having uncertain auction markings on the backing paper, the only provenance the painting had was this shabby label with the name written in an exuberant script: “J…rner R.A. Signed and dated from the collection of James (?).” The name on it had been read and advertised as James Crockling. But was that truly the name on the sticker?

     While still waiting for the auction to end, I absorbed the information from the dealer’s write-up and pondered over the label. Suddenly I was jolted by the realization that the name was not Crockling, but, Orrock Esq. This was the same important collector of 18th and 19th century British art from whence Shipwreck, the Rescue sold in 1904.

Label from the backing of the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein. "J... rner R.A. Signed and dated from the collection of James Orrock Esq. No. 157 - 1884."

     The true provenance would likely not have been recognized if I were not already familiar with the name—what a coincidence! In a less secular society one would suspect providence. Before the sale ended I had emailed Graham the image of the painting and label. He felt the painting very Turnerian and without any prompting recognized the name Orrock. His comment was: “don’t let this one get away.” The next day he was busy at the University of British Columbia library; there he came up with a reference for the subject of the painting. The landscape and fortification on the mountain in the distance compared very closely with a work Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1835.  In her 1995 exhibition catalogue, Turner in Germany, Cecilia Powell wrote: “Turner depicted Coblenz and Ehrenbrietstein many times in both pencil and watercolour between 1817 and the early 1840s, he produced only one oil painting of this subject: ‘The Bright Stone of Honour (Ehrenbrietstein), and Tomb of Marceau… this is one of Turner’s most important depictions of Germany.” [v] The landscape of the Orrock painting was certainly the same.

     But how did this tie in with the date on the painting?
As Powell mentioned, as early as 1817 Turner visited and sketched Ehrenbrietstein. The journey he mapped for himself meandered through the sight of the famous 1815 ‘Battle of Waterloo’ and along the Rhine River. From what we know of Turner’s aesthetic judgment, although he was far from disappointed by the scenery in Germany, his first preference would have been to visit Italy and Rome once Napoleon was defeated and it was again safe to travel abroad. But because of his interest in the Allied victory, Byronic poetry associated with the area, and the British Institute competition encouraging artists to record the events surrounding the great victory, Turner had little choice but to take a journey with history painting in mind and leave the ‘picturesque’ for a future trip. “Turner’s wish to contribute to the great wave of paintings commemorating the recent victory which had been stimulated by a competition sponsored by the British Institution in 1816”[vi] was possibly the foremost reason for him to neglect Italy at that time.

According to the Turner Bi-centenary exhibition catalogue: “Turner visited Ehrenbrietstein in 1819 and 1834 when he was planning a series of engravings of German rivers to follow the Rivers of France. A large sheet of paper in the British Museum, folded into 16 sections, bears a number of related drawings…”[viii] These later sketches of Ehrenbrietstein combined with the 1817 material suggests that he had  been planning a major exhibition piece of the region for several years. Finally, in 1835 he exhibited The Bright Stone of Honour (Ehrenbrietstein).     

The Bright Stone of Honour (Ehrenbrietstein) and the Tomb of Marceau 
Engraved version by J. Cousen 

By studying the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein it is evident that the ‘landscape’ aspect of the 1835 painting (seen below) resulted from Turner’s first visit to Coblentz and Ehrenbrietstein in 1817. To make a cursory connection between oil-sketches and finished paintings we need only defer to the Oxford Companion To J.M.W. Turner vis-à-vis Caernarvon Castle for which Turner “made a small oil study on panel, which suggests that he first considered painting the subject in oils.”[ix]

 Without knowledge of the Orrock painting it has been assumed that the exhibited piece of 1835 was inspired by trips made years later but there are no related sketches to support this hypothesis. It is unusual, that for such a complex piece as The Bright Stone of Honour (Ehrenbrietstein) that there are no recognizable preliminary drawings. Turner’s sketchbooks were the foundation for his studio work and to produce such a major work from scratch would be unexpected—at least for the topography of the landscape setting.

When comparing the similarity in growth of the trees and surrounding foliage of both pictures, and the orientation of the overall scene it becomes clear that the little oil-sketch is the logical prototype. Particularly for the 1817 ‘Rhine series’, Cecilia Powell confirmed Turner’s reliance on his sketchbooks: “the fact is that each and every drawing can be matched with a preparatory sketch or sketches in a sketchbook – even down to such details as the cows standing on the shore, a boat landing or linen spread out to dry on a grassy bank.” [x]

From original settings he had sketched from Nature Turner would often design an epic event to be superimposed—and in this case, The Bright Stone of Honour and the Tomb of Marceau. He did however frustrate his print publishers at times with an overactive penchant for invention. A conversation Turner had with Rev. William Kingsley over a commission the artist had for Bible scenes makes this abundantly clear, “He told me,” says Kingsley, “ that the publishers thought he was mad, and required him to put nothing into the drawings beyond what might actually be there.” [xi]

One further point to consider applies to the well-documented John Pye commission for engraving Ehrenbrietstein. This was an exercise not to be taken lightly, for according to Thornbury and substantiated by its late date of publication, it took Pye many years to complete: “This picture was a subject chosen expressly by Mr. Pye to engrave, and he devoted ten years to it.” [xii] The timing of the debate between Turner and Pye over the size and delivery dates would have precluded Turner gathering subsequent references, such as, more sketches from abroad. He therefore already must have had some model in his possession for the full-scale painting. As there are no other available candidates, the Orrock picture stands alone as the topographical model. Jack Lindsay not only explains that Turner used his oil sketches as models for larger studio works: “at times he used his sketches for more elaborate oils,” but also, that “many of the works he produced were complete in themselves, whatever his motive in making them.” [xiii]

At this point in time, at least some of the Tate Gallery people are unwilling to accept that Turner did delicate small oil sketches, instead preferring to call them the production of some mysterious 19th century faker, Hand "C", and although Martin Butlin admits that there are several such works outside the Tate, over the years he and his staff have avoided accepting them. One of these was originally from the Turner Bequest and is now in the British Museum. If that one were in fact accepted, then the whole production of Hand "C" would need accepting.

A couple of points that one might note comparing the Orrock picture with the 1935 painting. 
Firstly, the light source in the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein as compared to that in The Bright Stone of Honour. The source of light is indefinite in the 1835 picture, this is possibly due to the bright full-moon having been added. It was likely done for symbolic reasons.
Secondly, in the 1817 Orrock picture the foreground tree is more in keeping with the romance of the artist's earlier work. Its spontaneous playfulness of form and sinuous nature reminds one of the stronger outside influences found in Turner's work earlier in the century. Turner had read “Hogarth before 1807…The Analysis of Beauty, which advocated the ‘serpentine line of beauty.’ ”[xvi]

 In July of 1811 there was the “publication of the first two Cantos of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, a poem in which Turner seems to have perceived a literary equivalent of his own vision. He was frequently to quote from it in exhibition catalogues.” [xvii]

Turner’s seduction by Child Harold’s phantasmagoric Pilgrimage[2] is again seen two years later with his trip through Italy, “he had to enact for himself the pilgrimage of Byron’s Child Harold in order to arrive at so complete a statement of the classic myth of Italy...” [xviii] That there was a direct connection with Turner’s 1817 oil-sketch and his journey in Byron’s footsteps is certain. Turner left for the Rhine in August of 1817 and Byron’s Canto III was published in November of 1816. One might assume that the poem was the inspiration for at least documenting an appropriate topography in 1817. One that was ultimately used for the Bright Stone of Honour in which the French Revolutionary General is the central theme. In his exhibited painting Turner added the shrine in the form of an obelisk and included a Byronic quote in deference to the General:

                                             By Coblentz, on a rise of gentle ground,
                                                   There is a small and simple pyramid.
                                                   Crowning the summit of the verdant mound;
                                                   Beneath its base are heroes’ ashes hid,
                                                   Our enemy’s - but let that not forbid
                                                   Honour to Marceau! ...

                                            Brief, brave, and glorious was his young career, -
                                                  His mourners were two hosts, his friends and foes;
                                                  Pray for his gallant spirit’s bright repose;
                                                  For he was freedom’s champion…

                         WWI stereo-view of
Ehrenbrietstein from a similar vantage point

Another reference to General Marceau might be indicated as early as 1817 by the symbolic inclusion of the cistern seen in the foreground of both pictures. Quoting from a book of poems by his friend Samuel Rogers, a book that Turner had done illustrations for, In the Crimea:

                              Drink and be glad. This cistern of white stone, ----------
                                   ------ visit his tomb with flowers;
                                   And with a drop of this sweet water fill
                                   The two small cells scooped in the marble there,
                                   That birds may come and drink upon his grave,
                                   Making it holy,[3]

Such fountains are found along the Rhine and are appreciated even today as places of pilgrimage in which to enjoy the purifying waters. Turner may have intended this symbolic gesture from the very beginning, but also, the cistern might have in fact existed and thus proven a compounding source of inspiration.

The Orrock Ehrenbrietstein was painted at the leading edge of Turner’s ‘second period’ of artistic development, and the kind prose Thornbury had for this middle period is very fitting:

"The chief characteristics of this period are colour instead of grey, refinement instead of force, quantity instead of mass. His light is now as near the brightness of real light as possible; his shadow not of one colour, but of various colours. He tries now for delicacy and tenderness of contrast instead of violence[4] the drawings of this period, when not painted for display, are 'faultless and magnificent.' The splendour and gladness of the world, not its humiliation and pain, are now his chief object."  [xix]

This description is fitting for the little Ehrenbrietstein but apparently not for any small oil-sketches in the Tate / Clore Gallery Turner Bequest. Could this be the reason that the officials there are reticent to accept work of: "refinement, delicacy and tenderness?" What should one think of Thornbury’s quote in light of Butlin’s invention of the nefarious Hand C, “distinguished by the small size of the paintings, in oils, and by an over-delicate prettification of Turnerian style and motifs?” (Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner )

Helen Conant supports Thornbury: “refinement takes the place of force. He had discovered that it is much more difficult to draw tenderly than ponderously, and that all the most beautiful things in nature depend on infinitely delicate lines.” [xx]

Ruskin was emphatic when he listed the dramatic change to Turner’s middle period style:
      1. Colour takes the place of grey.
      2. Refinement takes the place of force.
      3. Quantity takes the place of mass.

“He had discovered that it is much more difficult to draw tenderly than ponderously, and that all the most beautiful things in nature depend on infinitely delicate lines. His effort is, therefore, always, now, to trace lines as finely, and shades as softly, as the point of the brush and feeling of the hand are capable of doing; and the effects sought are themselves the most subtle and delicate which nature presents.” (Ruskin, Turner Gallery at Marlborough House)

Turner’s second biographer, Hamerton, who was himself an artist—surely more aware of artistic technique than Thornbury and likely on par with Ruskin, concurs: “Turner did not despise detail, but finished all his work sufficiently and some of it minutely; that he wrought for colour as much as form, tenderly, delicately, and therefore (however swiftly) without hurry.” [xxi] With Turner’s move into this phase of his art production, which was so dominated by his print production, Wilkinson uses the expression, “new sensitivity.” [xxii]

Perhaps one should be less hasty in trying to excluded such work; there is one delicate work in the British Museum collection that some Tate pundits seem to have ganged-up against. It is a slight bit smaller than the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein and is certainly in keeping with Martin Butlin’s Hand C theory. The BJ catalogue entry that renders it a "dud" indicates that previously it was highly revered—exhibited more than once in fact. This is telling; it confirms that outside Martin’s friendly circle, his hand theory might not be widely accepted. The BJ 551a entry is as follows, a Landscape with Distant Church: “Despite having been selected for exhibition and numbering (782) by the National Gallery in the late 1860s this work does not seem to be by Turner; the forms and execution are altogether too delicate and precise. Andrew Wilton [Martin’s successor at the Tate] agrees with this verdict (verbal confirmation) though Ziff accepts the work as genuine.”[xxiii] This previously revered work is dejected alas. Will there not be a reprieve for at least one single reference to the more sensitive side of Turner during this period of "new sensitivity?"

Landscape with Distant Church 8.5 x 10.5 inches from the British Museum ( rejected by Martin Butlin)

This certainly shows Martin’s  ability to change the status of a widely accepted work, on the slightest, or might we say the most “delicate” of whims. All in all, it was likely necessary for the devolution of the little oil in order that the supply of Turner’s work did not get out of hand. If it were acknowledged as being “right,” its acceptance would have given credence to all those other, now condemned, small delicate oils. This painting that is now in limbo, Landscape with Distant Church was in fact from Turner’s own studio and formed part of the Turner Bequest. Dare we say, then—so much for the merit of that particular sort of provenance!

Turner’s manner of production is known to be broad with at least three distinct style changes taking place along the way. The somewhat more sensitive period in Turner’s production would seem to coincide with the dates Michael Kitson gives for Turner’s calm pictures. In his words: “From about 1807 until his departure for Italy in 1819 he produced an increasing number of calm pictures, he did this in his work in all styles, not only in pictures directly inspired by Claude." (M. Kitson, 1964, p. 16.) It is not so much the delicacy of production, or size of the work that one should be looking at, so much as, “the uniting link of character; [it] is never lost.” [xxiv] It makes little sense to believe that there would be an independent class of Turner fakes in any case.

It was the first hand experience of Charles Eastlake that alerts one to expectations of finding many oil sketches done by Turner. “When the executors were examining his boxes after his death, they suddenly came upon several oil sketches. ‘Now,’ said Sir Charles Eastlake, ‘we shall find many more of these, for I remember being with Turner once, in Devonshire when he made sketches in oil.’ But no more were found.” [xxv]

Many years earlier while with Cyrus Redding Turner played host in a picnic setting. This of course was somewhat out of character for Turner who was so often portrayed ascetically, with little but art on his mind. Thornbury gives us Redding’s reminiscences of the occasion:

“I was of a party to whom Turner had given a picnic in Devonshire…There were eight or nine of the party, including some ladies. Turner, with an ample supply of cold meats, shell fish, and wines was there before us. In that delightful spot we spent the better part of a delightful summer’s day. Never was there more social pleasure partaken by any party in that English Eden. Turner was exceedingly agreeable for one whose language was more epigrammatic and terse than complimentary upon most occasions. He had come two or three miles with the man who bore his store of good things, and had been at work before our arrival. He showed the ladies some of his sketches in oil, which he had brought with him, perhaps, to verify them. The wine circulated freely…”[xxvi]

This sounds closer to a private gallery exhibition opening-gala than a picnic. This is a story that has been often repeated but without emphasis on a key element of the story—Turner’s sketches in oil. Specially selected to impress the ladies, they certainly would not have been anything slapdash, and considering the setting they were likely to be of an intimate size. They were likely the oil version of his highly finished and saleable work in watercolour, small and portable, otherwise; some finished watercolours would have been a better choice for the occasion. One might ask, where on earth are these oil-sketches now? Condemned perhaps--relegated to an obscure category of duds?  Is it possible that Turner, the ever-shrewd businessman wanted more than "verification" of his work that day of the picnic, he had never in the past gone to anyone for encouragement. It is likely he was there to garner interest and possibly sell the paintings. And if this were the case there would have been little attention given to documentary details, receipts, and the like.

 Orrock Ehrenbrietstein enlarged detail showing two figures and the fountain

More than anyone, Sir Charles Eastlake, President of the Royal Academy gave Thornbury confirmation that Turner sketched repeatedly with oils and was apparently excited when people acknowledged the speed by which he did so. And although he most often hid his working methods, it is clear from Eastlake’s remarks that Turner wanted people to know that he could easily switch from pencil to the brush for outdoor studies. Here is how Thornbury recorded it:

“Mr. Johns fitted a small portable painting box, containing some prepared paper for oil sketches, as well as the other necessary materials. When Turner halted at a scene and seemed inclined to sketch it, Johns produced the inviting box, and the great artist, finding everything ready to his hand, immediately began to work… after a few days he made his oil sketches freely in our presence. Johns accompanied him always; I was only with them occasionally. Turner seemed pleased when the rapidity with which those sketches were done was talked of; for, departing from his habitual reserve in the instance of his pencil sketches, he made no difficulty in showing them. On one occasion, when, on his return after a sketching ramble, to a country residence belonging to my father, near Plymouth, the day’s work was shown, he himself remarked that one of the sketches (and perhaps the best) was done in less than half an hour.

"‘Long afterwards, the great painter sent Johns in a letter a small oil sketch, not painted from nature, as a return for his kindness and assistance.’[xxvii]

In the case of these particular sketches that Eastlake was later “snooping” after, the President himself found it difficult to believe they became waste as Turner had suggested. This, considering that Turner was careful to preserve even the grubbiest little scrap for later reference. These sketches might have eventually been removed surreptitiously from the late Turner’s studio or at some point been sold by the artist himself. Yet, why are they, along with the little oil sketch sent in the letter to Johns, nowhere to be found in Turner catalogues?

It might be interesting here to reflect on the point that Turner could paint a small oil painting in half an hour. With this in mind why is there such a dearth of oil paintings listed by Butlin and Joll, only about five hundred? The painter of monumental works on the grandest scale, international diplomat, and family man—Rubens, has three thousand to his credit! Although, Rubens had a number of helpers; he lived fewer years than Turner, and was often away from his studio on non art-related business. Even if Turner’s finely finished water colours were considered on-par with oil painting generally, the expected number still falls short. It appears likely that efforts to exclude works from the artist's oeuvre have been over-zealous.


In addition to the Historical significance of the 1935 version of Ehrenbrietstein, Turner also added a moon! Might this bit of Romance have been spawned by Byron's own vision?

                              The moon is up, and yet it is not night,
                               The sun as yet divides the day with her.

                                                                                                                          Lord Byron

In fact, if it were not for the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein, one would likely not recognize so readily that the primary illumination of the sun comes from behind the tree.

Alas, Turner’s use of oil paint during his short trip to Germany in 1817 presents us with somewhat of a quandary. How did Turner make enough time during his pedestrian travels to allow for the necessary drying time? The answer might be that he painted the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein on the way to Mainz, and picked it up at the same hotel he was known to have stayed at, in Coblenz, on the way back the following week. This was adjacent to Ehrenbrietstein. And if he brought the paints with him to Germany, one might eventually expect other small Rhineland scenes to surface, otherwise, we can only assume that the paints were acquired or borrowed en-route. It was mentioned in his ‘Itinerary Rhine’ that he did take along colours. Wilkinson confirms this, but questions “Whether he used these colours on the tour… He lost them on the way back, according to a note in a later book.” [xxxi]

Turner knew he would be returning to Coblenz within the week, therefore it is likely that he left some of his travel gear at the hotel in Coblenz to be claimed on his return. Might this untoward risk have been the reason Turner lost his backpack-styled ‘wallet’ which contained much of his kit. In her thorough study of Turner’s travels through Germany, Cecilia Powell sympathized that, “The most irritating items to have lost must have been the guide books and drawing materials which included his interleaved copy of Campbell’s Guide through Belgium and Holland, half a dozen pencils and a box of colours; but it must also have been somewhat inconvenient to have lost his razor, nightshirt, spare umbrella ferrule, stockings, cravats, waistcoat and a supply of clean shirts.”[xxxi]

Agreed, it is logistically a difficult question; but if the small Ehrenbrietstein were not painted on the actual tour, it would have been worked-up in London or Raby Castle shortly afterwards. This would be in keeping with contemporary opinion about the other fifty-odd watercolours of the same region that Walter Fawkes bought shortly after Turner’s return home.  The oil-sketch did however have to eventually reside in London to be used as the model for the 1835 exhibition piece. The 1817 inscription must indicate that, if not done during his tour, it was at least done within a few months of the journey.

The oil sketch of Devonshire from 1813 (seen here) was illustrated in W.L. Wyllie’s biography of Turner, page 54. It is effectively the same size as Orrock’s Ehrenbrietstein and it is certainly as delicate. Both seem in keeping with the Hand C concept. Clearly, this Devonshire painting has been so well traveled, and exhibited, that there is no denying that it is by the hand of Turner. It is part of an 1813 series of small oil sketches that Turner left in various stages of completion. The paper could quite feasibly have come from the same sketchbook as the Orrock picture. They are the same size and reasonably close in date.

      In the introduction to The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, the Butlin and Joll catalogue raisonné, it is almost as though Evelyn Joll anticipated the discovery of works such as Orrock’s Ehrenbrietstein. He wrote that: “Apart from the series of small oil sketches executed in Devon in 1813, studies in oil, made out of doors, occur very rarely thereafter so far as we know, but Turner was prepared to employ any methods that lay at hand in order to capture an effect, so that one must be wary of being too dogmatic about this.” [xxxii] The following excerpt quoted from a conversation in Turner’s studio shortly after his passing reminds us that, yes, there were many more such sketches to be found: “‘Now,’ said Sir Charles Eastlake, ‘we shall find many more of these... '" The unusual hatching technique Turner used to render the grass as seen in the foreground of the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein is seen several places in the Devonshire series as well.

Evelyn Joll’s statement is somewhat supportive of the little oil sketch, but at the same time expresses a deeper sentiment, and the core reason for the many roadblocks modern connoisseurship is confronted with—timorous dogmatism by the curatorial community. It makes one wonder if this oxymoron might be rooted in some esoteric church of pessimism. Or is it caused by the ever looming legal threat of litigation. Perhaps it is motivated by little more than training. One might assume that in late life Evelyn Joll wisely concluded that the rejection of small, more carefully rendered oil-sketches, was ungrounded?

If Martin Butlin truly believed that works in the style of Hand C are not by Turner, and is unwilling to abandon his youthful invention, the least one would hope is that those same anonymous creators might be classified properly. They cannot honestly be called fakers and forgers because apparently most of their work is  unsigned.  If there had in the beginning been an attempt to deceive, there would be more than stylistic similarities to base a condemnation on. If these abandoned works were in fact signed "Turner," those who wished to disparage them and their creator could then justly ply whatever cruel nomenclature deemed appropriate.

There is one other glaring discrepancy about the shadowy thought that the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein might be a product of a late 19th century ‘imitator’. It is the vintage signature and date. It would be a misguided imitator or faker, if he were dating a picture 1817, while nineteenth century Turner biographers all believe that the final exhibition piece, c1835, derived from journeys made decades later. It would be foolhardy for a 19th century imitator to try and rewrite history and at the same time pass off a forgery. Yes, if the piece were not right, by having a signature it would automatically become an outright forgery. Again, it is very unlikely that a faker trying to fraudulently deceive would immediately give himself or herself away with an incredulous date.

If a faker were using one of the only two available images for a model: the exhibited painting, or the engravings of it, which are certainly all dated circa 1835 or later, and the faker dated the “imitation” accordingly, the attempted deception would have appeared more rational. Another reason it seems illogical for a faker to use the date of 1817, is that, until more modern scholarship was available Turner’s trip to Germany in 1817 was not general knowledge. Thornbury had him going to the Rhine for the first time in 1819, two years later than the actual trip, and even the Tate Bicentenary publication Turner 1775-1851, as late as 1974 was using this same erroneous date of 1819. (p.143) In 1902, Swinburne tells us that, “Turner made a second tour to the Continent in 1813, and a third in 1819.”(Swinburne, 1902, p162)

There were several Turner scholars before 1974 that did discover the true date of Turner’s first trip to Italy, 1817, and this was likely by means of an independent review of Turner’s sketchbooks after they became accessible. Not the least of who was A.J. Finberg, who in 1904 was probably the first. A. J. Finberg pronounced in his book: "The foundations of this Chronicle were laid in 1904, when Mr. Hawes Turner, who was then Keeper and Secretary of the National Gallery, allowed me to explore the contents of the eleven large deed-boxes in which what had come to be regarded as "the waste-paper basket" of Turner's workshop had been preserved from the eyes of the profane for nearly fifty years." (Finberg, 1939, preface)

This was many years after Thornbury and many years after the Orrock Ehrenbrietstein could have been painted. The true 1817 date would certainly have evaded any 19th century "faker." The Tate dating faux-pas in 1974 was not an isolated instance in recent history. In the catalogue for the 1963-64 multi-venue exhibition held in America, Turner Watercolors from The British Museum, the Keeper of Prints and Drawings wrote that, “Turner did not take immediate advantage of the reopening of the Continent to the English traveler after Waterloo, and it was not until 1819 that he made his second journey abroad.”[Edward Croft-Murray, Turner Watercolors from The British Museum, (Smithsonian Publication No. 4519, 1963), 10]

Text Box: The quirky nature by which the truth unfolded gave the only clue 
strong enough to challenge ‘the invention’ of the man with the many-hands



The great irony with Thornbury’s original 1819 dating, is that, if it were not for his mistake, the Butlin Hand Theory might have become more and more an unassailable proposition. The quirky nature by which the truth unfolded gave the only clue strong enough to challenge ‘the invention’ of the man with the many-hands.  And for those who rapaciously condemn Thornbury’s efforts, we should be able to comfortably assume that on occasion good can derive from a small blunder. For all we know this same erroneous date might have made it possible to Rescue an entire class of Turner’s work, and some of his finer jewels at that.

                                                         Art World’s Dirty Little Secret

    Orrock Ehrenbrietstein
from the Butlin visit.     

  Orrock Provenance   The Unknown Turner    Tribal Instincts    Connoisseurship


[1] The marbled design of the book board compares favorably with other Turner sketchbooks.

[2] This pilgrimage and inspiration for the epic poem Pilgrimage of Childe Harold by Lord Byron started early in th19th century with his trip down the Rhine and through Italy.

[3] The source of Rogers’ inspiration is said to be a Turkish superstition.

[4] The italics are the author’s.


[i] Frank Herrmann, Sotheby’s, Portrait of an Auction House, (Chatto and Windus, London, 1980), 397-8.

[ii] Frank Herrmann, Sotheby’s, Portrait of an Auction House, (Chatto and Windus, London, 1980), 397-8.

[iii] Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 2, 312.

[iv] Walter Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 2, 312

[v] Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1995), 181.

[vi] John Gage, J. M. W. Turner: A Wonderful Range of Mind, (London, Yale University Press, 1987), 44.

[vii] John Gage, J. M. W. Turner: A Wonderful Range of Mind, (London, Yale University Press, 1987), 44

[viii] Tate Gallery, Turner, (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1974), 143.

[ix] Andrew Wilton, The Oxford Companion To J.M.W. Turner, (Oxford University Press Inc., New York, Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin, and Luke Herrmann, 2001), 37.

[x] Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1995), 27.

[xi] Mordechai Omer, Turner and The Bible, (Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1979), 8.

[xii] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 1, 326-7.

[xiii] Jack Lindsay, J. M. W. Turner, A Critical Biography, (New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1966), 101.

[xiv] W. L. Wyllie A.R.A., J.M.W. Turner, (G. Bell & Sons, London, 1905), 67.

[xv] Luke Herrmann, Turner, Paintings, Watercolours, Prints & Drawings, (Phaidon Press Limited, London, 1975), 22.

[xvi] Eric Shanes, J.M.W. Turner, The Foundations of Genius, (The Taft Museum Cincinnati, Ohio; Corbett Foundation; The Hennegan Co. printers, 1986), 20.

[xvii] Andrew Wilton, ‘Turner in his time’. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987), 124.

[xviii] Andrew Wilton, ‘Turner in his time’. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, 1987), 124.

[xix] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 1, 259-60; also see pp. 356.

[xx] Helen S. Conant, J.M.W. Turner, (extract from Harper’s Monthly Magazine: 1878; published in Master-In-Art series by Bates and Guild Company, Boston, nov 1902), 27.

[xxi] Philip Gilbert Hamerton, Life of J.M.W. Turner R.A., (University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge, 1879), 365.

[xxii] Gerald Wilkinson, Turner Sketches 1789-1820, (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd., London, 1977), 138.

[xxiii] Martin Butlin & Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, Evelyn Joll’s 1977 intro. Revised Edition, 1984), text vol, 317.

[xxiv] Frances Tyrrell-Gill, Little Books On Art: Turner, (Methuen & Co., London, 1904), 102.

[xxv] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol.1, 151.

[xxvi] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 1, 216.

[xxvii] Walter Thornbury, Life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A., (Hurst and Blackett, Publishers, London, 1862), vol. 1.

[xxviii] John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, (Studio Vista Limited, 1969), 39. also Thornbury, vol. 1, pp. 151.

[xxix] Cecilia Powell, Turner in Germany, (Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1995), 90.

[xxx] Gerald Wilkinson, Turner Sketches 1789-1820, (Barrie & Jenkins Ltd., London, 1977), 143-4.

[xxxi] Ibid. 142; also see, Cecilia Powell, Turner's Rivers of Europe, (Tate Gallery, sponsored by Volkswagon, 1991), 26.

[xxxii] Martin Butlin & Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, Evelyn Joll’s 1977 intro. Revised Edition, 1984), text vol., xvi.