Distant View from Old Sarum


By J M W Turner

This view is derived from a pencil sketch Turner made in 1795 during his first visit to Salisbury. Unlike the five other sketches made on that trip, it remained unused until the 1820s.  The viewpoint is from ‘Old Sarum Entrenchment’, as Turner noted, and it is clear that, like other artists before and since, he was making a visual link between modern Salisbury and its historic roots at the abandoned site to its north. In the popular imagination Old Sarum was one of the most notorious ‘Rotten Boroughs’ in the British electoral system. Despite being inhabited merely by sheep and their roofless shepherds, the ‘Green Mound’ was represented in Parliament by two M.P.s.  This state of affairs was highly contentious in the late 1820s, when Turner’s watercolour was first exhibited. But by 1832, when the image was published as an engraving, the impetus for reform of the electoral system was unstoppable.

Acquired through Acceptance in Lieu from Dept of National Heritage.

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