TURNER, RUSKIN and THE PRE-RAPHAELITES Bound volume of autograph letters

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 120

Sold for £ 62,400 (US$ 79,493) inc. premium
Archive of letters addressed to the picture collector Benjamin Godfrey Windus by Turner, Ruskin and members or associates of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, including Millais, Holman Hunt, Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown; the collection including series and individual letters (listed, as far as practicable, in the order in which they are bound) by:

(i) Turner (Joseph Mallord William) Two engraved visiting cards ('Mr J.M.W. Turner,/ 47, Queen Ann Street, Harley Street.'), both with autograph inscriptions, the first inscribed verso "Mrs Moore and Friends/ JMWT", the second recto "Monday/ Rev.d C Hamilton" (presumably given to Windus to allow his nominees access to Turner's own gallery, or possibly given by Turner to the nominees to allow them access to Windus's gallery)

(ii) Turner (Joseph Mallord William) Two printed tickets of admission to the Royal Academy 8 o'clock lectures, both signed ("JMW Turner") and made out by him to Mr Grey and Mr Nugent, and dated by him 12 January 1811 and 11 December 1815, both stamped in orange 'Royal Academy London' within a laurel wreath, the second made out by Turner in red ink

(iii) Turner (Joseph Mallord William) Series of 18 autograph letters signed ("JMW Turner"), to Windus, discussing his paintings, devoting the greatest space to an especially important account of how he sought commissions on and subsequently worked-up the late Swiss watercolours [including the celebrated Rigi views] ("...Your letter of Saturday last gave me much concern and pain in that I have caused you in any way such annoyance and most particularly so in your censure of my doing any more Drawings... The Sketches and Drawings therefrom are not at Mr Griffiths 'for sale to any one' neither did I suppose your refusal of them thereby, or have to conclude that my (professional) happiness is not to be consulted or considered in any manner and that I am also to be blamed or blessed alike either if I do work or do not work.../...My inadvertance arose in this way - Mr G. offered and it appears to me the shortest way for to ascertain how far my employ for my own use, when out upon my Summer trips, might be made on approval of by my admiring friends: in being carried on or left, in their chance state when done from Nature thus, for instance 20 were selected, but it turns out that they could not be uniform by size and work without being carr[ied] forward and therefore it struck me the best way would be to take fresh pieces of paper of a uniform size and follow the same idea and keep the original sketch in its primitive state. - hence by progression said paper became the Drawings but took so much time that the 20 were reduced to 10... I did certainly not point out any mode for Mr G. because I thought of every thing being equally and clear, open to all opinions and hoped an inward satisfaction of knowing or feeling that while previously trying to please myself subsequently to please my friends - so my dear Sir remove the land-mark of your displeasure and let us all three be right again..."); other letters touch on sundry subjects, mainly painterly, including his RA duties ("...my unlucky star has fixed me at the Royal Academy as Visitor in the Life Academy every Evening..."), presents for Mrs Windus's birthday ("...I have a Vignette for Campbell's Pleasures of Hope... which is at your service to make up your Three Frame, to hang the Room as you proposed, before Mrs Windus's Birth day if possible (to get the Frame made) and not to wait until I can get the Byron Vig.te (to come) DONE..."), the best way of incorporating quotations into a frame which he illustrates with a sketch ("...thus in the Frame, not cutting the paper of which the Drawing is made so much the better if not, cut it only to the top paper - (I think the Byron Vignettes are larger) but if Mr Parrot cut them to fit..."), the delivery of "four England Drawings", visits to Windus's gallery ("...may I trouble you to give me permission to a Lady to see your Drawings who hesitates fearing a trespass without your concurrence therein..."), excuses for non-attendance ("...a damp sleet came on - which made Me (owing to a sad cold and swell'd throat) give it up..."), thanks for hospitality ("...Many - thanks for your kindness, night-cap &c. best respects to Mrs Windus..."), etc.; address leaves and wrappers, 21 pages, 4to, 8vo, Queen's Lane, Athenaeum, and elsewhere, 1833-1848

(iv) Turner - Estate. Autograph letter signed by Carrington Simpson, to Windus: "I am desired by the Executors of the late J.M.W. Turner Esq. to invite you to accompany the remains to St Paul's Cathedral on Tuesday next the 30th instant and the favor of your attendance is requested at No.47 Queen Anne Street Cavendish Square at 9 o'Clock precisely on that morning", one page, on black-edged paper, 4to, Canterbury Place, Lambeth, 24 December 1851

(v) Turner - Jones (George) Autograph letter signed, to Windus, apologising on behalf of Turner who has had an accident out of town and has asked him to explain that he cannot be with him on the 15th ("...I have however the pleasure of informing You, that his hand writing is quite as good, or rather better than usual - so I sincerely hope he has not sustained any serious injury..."), 2 pages, 8vo, Royal Academy, 9pm, 17 January 1842

(vi) Turner - Cadell (Robert) Autograph letter signed ("Rob Cadell"), discussing Turner's 24 drawings illustrating Scott [published by Cadell in the 'Author's Edition'] ("...I admit being still at a loss as to price - after conferring with sundry good judges I come however, to the point, and trust you will not think me too high, for Three Hundred Guineas they are yours - I think it my duty to Sir Walter Scotts family to ask aright from any purchaser to have the use of all or any of them in the event of any new engravings being called for: from the state of the publication of the Poetry this may only apply to one or two of the separate Poems..."), 3 pages, 4to, Edinburgh, 24 July 1835

(vii) Ruskin (John) Series of 20 autograph letters signed ("J Ruskin", one as "Chamonny"), to Windus, largely about their shared passion for Turner which Ruskin claims was acquired through study of Windus's collection and which he describes as "an over zeal in the cause of that art to which your taste first directed me", with Ruskin in 1844 attempting to make Windus put his name down for four Swiss watercolours [a proposed sequel to the Rigi series of 1842] ("...I so love Switzerland that Turners Swiss drawings are to me -- worth two of the English subjects, and if I parted with any of the English series - it would be in a way to give Turner a commission - in direct exchange for one of his recent works/ Apropos of the recent works - I know that Griffith had something at his tongues end all the time we were at Tottenham which he never had the courage to bring out. I have several reasons both selfish -- & unselfish - for being more bold - and therefore shall state the same. Of the 10 drawings which Turner wishes to execute - only six are engaged - Griffith himself intends taking two - but if you -- in compliment to Turner - would let your name stand to the four, Griffith would be most happy to let you choose the couple you liked when executed, and to stake the other two remaining after your selection./ Of course I must throw myself altogether on your indulgence in taking the liberty of stating thus much. That the selfish desire of seeing these lovely thoughts realized, weighs with me - and makes me thus impudent - I cannot deny - but from me heart - the stronger and principle motive is my desire those kindly relations already so happily resumed between Turner & you..."); Ruskin also discusses Turner's Rain, Steam, and Speed - the Great Western Railway and Approach to Venice exhibited at the RA in 1844 ("...The public appear to understand Turner a little better this year - the railroad pleases them. The two yellow Venices I don't like but the third - the approach - with the blue mist & moon - I am deeply in love with - I don't know if we shall be able to resist it - unless it is already sold - the sweetest thing he ever did in oil - I think. The railroad - though wonderful - is a little flimsy on the left - about the blue river - the orange sea piece is too violent in its blacks, & crude in its distant blues, under the large ship - I have even some little doubts whether the Ostend be quite worthy of him - but the Port Rysdael is I think absolute perfection - the best grey sea piece ever painted by man - as far as I have seen or can judge -- . I thought when I first went in, that he was stronger than ever -- & in the blue Venice & port Rysdael he surely is - but I have not found the others grow upon me as they usually do..."); the letters also provide a picture of Ruskin's system of educating himself through study of Windus's Turners ("...I am going to beg of you a very great favour if it be safe - to leave the drawer with the Bible drawings unlocked - because I want to begin with them. I will not of course touch or look at anything else in the Cabinet. I know they are in the second drawer - and I want to begin with them - because the attention necessary to discover their refinement is not so readily given - after people have exhausted their admiration on the walls, because I think the size & fulness of the large drawings is only to be appreciated after the attention has been fixed to details by the small - people otherwise glance at them too generally & slightly..."), while attempting not to be distracted by his host's generosity ("...I really cannot make an inn of your house every time I come - I have a great deal of work to do there - by your kind permission - and I shall not be comfortable unless you allow me to come without putting you to all the trouble of providing meat & pastry..."); Ruskin also gives vent to his disgust at the machinations of the fine art trade ("...I spoke to Turner on Saturday by the by - about the eight drawings - He says he has not done one stroke but those in G's hands - this affair ought to be looked into - as it is a gross case of endeavour to swindle and I have just heard of a rascally daub of a watercolour being sold to somebody in the north - by somebody further north - as the original of Turners Ancient Italy!!!..."); there is also a good deal of information on his progress with Modern Painters [the first volume of which had appeared the previous year] ("...I have much to make my engraver unlearn as well as learn, and the work gets on very slowly, however the longer it takes, the better it will be & the more invulnerable..."); of added biographical interest, the letters also afford us an early glimpse of his future wife when a girl of fifteen ("...I want very much to introduce a young lady to you who I think will quite eclipse & extinguish your Irish friend - though that is bold vouching - for a Scotch demoiselle - as she is.../... Miss Gray - I need scarcely say was delighted with your collection. She has fine natural taste - & fixed instantly - without any hints from me - on the Nemi - Florence - Assos - & Caius Cestius, -- of the Byron series. She is however a mere child. - and as she got a little tired before I had done drawing - I gave her leave to look at some of your books - I hope none of them were injured..."); with many other comments on Turner scattered through the letters ("...And have you really got that Venice with the red gondola & green moonlight? - the loveliest thing he ever did! I long to see it so..."); autograph envelopes and address panels, nearly 50 pages, 4to, 8vo and 16mo, Denmark Hill, Park Street, and elsewhere, 1843-1853

(viii) Ruskin (John) Series of ten autograph letters signed ("John Ruskin"), to Windus's daughter Mary and to her husband, the Rev Pierre de Putron of Guernsey, Rector of Rodwell near Lewes, thanking her for gifts ("...impossible for any one but the daughter of my kind and dear old friend to have given, a gift so entirely expressive of all that I have most wished and tried for in past life...") and discussing the purchase of a Turner watercolour ("...The drawing is sure to be taken care of, wherever it is - being so beautiful, but it ought I think to be here with its neighbour Lucernes, and the perhaps you would sometimes come to see it?..."); with contemporary mounted photographs and envelopes, 20 pages, 8vo, Corpus Christi College, Denmark Hill, London, and Brantwood, 1865 to 1885 where dated

(ix) Martin (John) Autograph letter signed ("John Martin"), to Windus, complaining that Windus has sold Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still without giving him first refusal ("...I did feel somewhat violated, not at your selling the work, as that of course you had an undoubted right to; but, as your not having given me the refusal; as I did, & do still think, in common civility you might have done; for I believe it customary whenever any gentleman has a work of a living Artist to dispose of for the first offer to be given to the artist..."); autograph address leaf, 2 pages, 8vo, Allsop Terrace, 1 October 1832

(x) Holland (James) Two autograph letters signed ("James Holland"), to Windus, the first saying he is "very anxious to be permitted to look at your Turner drawings"; the second hoping to place one of his pictures "in your splendid collection"; autograph envelopes, 3 page, 8vo, Osnaburgh Street, 17 December 1846 and 12 October 1848

(xi) Lewis (John Frederick) Two autograph letters signed ("J.F. Lewis"), to Windus; asking for the loan of his "Alhambra sketches" [i.e. those lithographed as Lewis's Sketches and Drawings, of the Alhambra, made during a Residence in Granada, in the Years 1833-4 (1835)] ("...I want to borrow them if you will allow me the loan of them to send with some other things to the Queen [Adelaide] who has desired to see them with my other sketches...") and thanking him for the loan ("...The Queen has expressed just satisfaction in having seen them and I think Her having seen them may prove of use to the work..."); later autograph envelope, 3 pages, 8vo, Welbeck Street, "Tuesday" and "April 19", paper watermarked 1834

(xii) Millais (John Everett) Six autograph letters signed ("John Everett Millais", "John E. Millais", "J. Everett Millais" and "J.E. Millais"), to Windus, about exhibitions and his pictures, especially two owned by Windus, namely the Vale of Rest ("...I have repainted the Nun's head, -- touched it - since the International, & it is all right now. When you are passing this way I should be very glad to see you, my wife [Effie] and all my chicks are well thank you...") and A Huguenot ("...I have had Government application to procure if possible the 'Huguenot', & Order of Release, for Exhibition in Paris next year. It is the wish of the authorities that the Artists of this Country be well represented and they specially desire to have your picture of the 'Huguenot' for that purpose...") [Windus also owned Ophelia], two autograph envelopes, 9 pages, 8vo, Winchelsea, Gower Street, Cromwell Place, 1851-1866

(xiii) Hunt (William Holman) Three autograph letters signed ("W. Holman Hunt"), to Windus, all about The Scapegoat, in Windus's possession and which Holman Hunt managed to damage: the first about its touring exhibition ("...Mr White... thought you were rather disenclined to the exhibition of the 'Scapegoat' again in the Provinces..."), the second about preparing a print from it ("...I am having a strainer made for the last proof... I should like therefore to have the picture till Wednesday, or Thursday morning so that there may be a clear day for making the corrections in the details and more exact parts of the subject..."), the third about retouching "those parts of the picture wh have suffered injury by the drops of [etching] acid and other things wh discolor the paint permanently" ("...I feel that you will be anxious to take advantage of the best opportunity for restoring the painting as much as I am offering to do it... I should work gratuitously..."), 6 pages, 8vo, Claverton Terrace and Tor Villa, 9 August 1856, 1 and 18 July 1861

(xiv) Leighton (Frederic) Four autograph letters signed ("FredLeighton"), to Windus, requesting, in vain, that he lend A Roman Lady (La Nanna) [now at Philadelphia] for exhibition and asking that he allow Stella and Tolla to remain at the Hogarth Club for a while, but declining his commission to paint a replica of another [Roman female] head ("...I never undertake repetitions as I am not confident of my power to obtain the same effect twice - and have already been obliged to decline several commissions for duplicates of the very head which you wish me to repeat..."); autograph envelope, 9 pages, 8vo, Capri and St James's Street, 1859

(xv) Rossetti (Dante Gabriel) Two autograph letter signed ("D.G. Rossetti"), to Windus, the first about his study of Lucrezia Borgia exhibited at the Hogarth ("...I am wishing to insert the Borgia arms in your drawing, in a place always intended for them in one corner. I have hitherto failed in discovering what they are, but am hoping to succeed before Monday. In either case the drawing will be returned to you on Tuesday morning at latest..."), in the second indignantly denying that he has borrowed his drawing in order to make a surreptitious copy ("...The design does not exist in any other form, nor should I have needed it to reproduce it, as I have long had a photograph..."); autograph envelopes, 3 pages, the second on mourning paper [for Lizzie Siddall], Blackfriars Bridge and Cheyne Walk, 4 March 1859 and 6 December 1862

(xvi) Brett (John) Two autograph letters signed ("John Brett"), to Windus, the first offering to show him "a picture that I have just finished (my last summer's work)", the second informing him that friends are mounting an exhibition and asking him "to lend the 'mountains of St Gingolph'" [now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge], 2 pages, 8vo, Pump Court, 4 December [1861] and "May 1862"; with two autograph letters by Coventry Patmore, written as one of the friends organizing the exhibition of Brett's pictures rejected by the RA, 8 pages, the second on mourning paper, 8vo, British Museum, 6 and 11 May 1863

(xvii) Brown (Ford Madox) Seven autograph letters signed ("Ford Madox Ford"), to Windus (one to Mr Green and forwarded on to him), about pictures that Windus has purchased, most notably The Last of England ("...As I hear that my picture of 'The Last of England' is not gone to Manchester, and as you were once kind enough to say that at any time I might wish to exhibit it in London you would let me have it, I called on you this morning to beg you lend it me for four weeks... as I wish to make a sort of private exhibition of it, in company with about a dozen or 20 good pictures of friends of mine - As I know we should have the power to draw to it, most of the persons important in art circles, or connected with the press, I am particularly desirous that my picture (which you know has never been exhibited in London yet) should form part of the collection, or I may better say that without this picture, the thing will not be done at all, as it was in my desire to have this picture more properly seen, that the idea originated..."), later reporting Browning's approval of the same picture ("...Robert Browning was here yesterday & as he is very conversant with pictures I am happy to be able to say that he was very delighted with your 'Emigrants'..."), the series also touching on his Wycliffe, Chaucer at the Court of Edward III, The Parting of Cordelia and her Sisters, The Brent and The Corn Field, the final letter, written in 1865, giving something like a resumé of Windus's holdings ("...Should you still posses the first sketch & the pencil Drawing for the 'Last of England', they would be very acceptable as I intend to exhibit, in all cases, the first sketch along with the pictures. The sketch of 'Wickcliffe' & that of the parting of Cordelia & her Sisters also would be much desiderated & the head called 'Baby' which I am told you have recently acquired. There were also 2 small landscapes 'Carrying Corn' & 'the Brent' which if you still posses I have much wish for..."); three autograph envelopes, 18 pages, 8vo, Kentish Town, Finchley and Highgate, 1855-1865

(xviii) Other correspondents, mostly discussing their own work or seeking admission to Windus's gallery, include David Roberts, Copley Fielding, Joshua Christall, Thomas Phillips (the portrait painter), William Boxall, Francis Grant, William Brockendon, George Jones (an additional letter, about his own drawings), Turner's engraver John Pye (two letters about the Liber Studiorum and "your fairy land"), Frederick Tayler, Thomas Richmond (about seeing his Turners "in the company of Mr John Ruskin"), George Lance, William Gale, W.F. Harrison ("...Certain infidel friends...are desirous of being convinced of the justice of our young friend's estimate of Turner by a visit to your gallery..."), William Wyon, John Payne Collier (three letters about his scholarly reprints), Thomas Frognall Dibdin ("...there are 50 copies only of the accompanying Work on large paper..."), W.J. Linton, Alaric A. Watts, the Arctic explorer George Back (regretting that he cannot meet Turner chez Windus), James Orchard Halliwell (two letters, peddling his Shakespeare), Henry Ellis of the British Museum, John Britton, Bishop Wilberforce, William Whewell ("...Two years ago when I had the pleasure of seeing your beautiful collection of Turner's drawings in company with Mr Ruskin..."), Edward Swinburne, and others; plus printed ephemera, including two engraved invitations to the laying of the first stone and opening of London Bridge, 1825 and 1831, for viewing Millais's My First Sermon and sequel, 1864, a clipped advertisement for the Christie's 1868 Windus auction, and other material

red morocco gilt, with armorial blue and green armorial inlays on upper cover, silver fittings (clasp lacking), spine stamped in gilt 'In Memoriam/ Tottenham/ and/ "Auld Lang Syne"', g.e., stout 4to


  • PAPERS OF THE COLLECTOR BENJAMIN GODFREY WINDUS, PATRON OF TURNER AND THE PRE-RAPHAELITES. Benjamin Windus (1790-1867) had inherited several concerns (one a coach-building business, another the patent medicine 'Godfrey's Cordial') but, instead of pursuing a life of commerce, devoted himself from 1832 to the collection of art: "He amassed many drawings by Thomas Stothard and David Wilkie, selling some of the latter at Christies in June 1842. He became known principally for his collection of watercolours by J. M. W. Turner, some of which he had acquired before 1823. As a watercolour by John Scarlett Davis (1835, British Museum, London) shows, these Turners were mostly hung in the library designed by Samuel Angell and added in 1832 to Windus's cottage at Tottenham...By 1842 he was opening his house one day a week to ticketholders; access to this collection, John Ruskin claimed, enabled him to write Modern Painters. In 1841 Windus progressed to buying oil paintings by Turner, but a decade later he began gradually to sell his Turners, mostly through the dealer David Thomas White. Meanwhile, in 1849, he started to buy pictures by John Everett Millais and the Pre-Raphaelites" (Selby Whittingham, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography). A contemporary account described the collection as it was in 1840: "The collection principally consists of drawings by Turner, which alone amount to upwards of two hundred; these have been collected at various periods, regardless of expense, and they may be very justly considered the most choice and interesting specimens of the pencil of that great artist. The cottage, though not large, contains several well-proportioned apartments, fitted up in an extraordinary style of neatness and with much taste. The library and drawing rooms are hung with the choicest of Turner's drawings, framed and glazed, to the number of seventy; the remainder of the collection are preserved in portfolios" (W. Robinson, The History and Antiquities of Tottenham, quoted by John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner, 1980. p.300).

    Windus represented a new type of collector, as described by James Hilton: "The shift in Turner's attitudes that had focused itself in the 1828 and 1829 Academy exhibitions were followed inexorably in changes in the atitude that Turner's public had to him. His first patrons and advisors, and his first enemies, were now dead - Sir John Leicester, Beaumont, Fawkes, Farington, Payne Knight and 'Mad' Jack Fuller, all dead by 1834. The affection and venom they had variously felt for Turner was now rotting away in scattered country churchyards. Only Egremont remained, the great exception that proved the rule. This generation of inheritors were gradually being replaced in Turner's life by self-made men, entrepeneurs and factory owners who had harnessed the scientific discoveries of the Industrial Revolution with commercial reins. Men who bought Turner's work in the 1830s, or who began to consider it, were the coach-builder W.B. Windus, the whaling entrepreneur Elhanan Bichnell, the Manchester cotton spinner Henry McConnel, the son of a Leeds clothier John Sheepshanks, and the brewer William Whitbread. Although still a boy, John Ruskin, whose father John James Ruskin was a wine and sherry importer, was already regaling his parents with Turner and his works" (James Hilton, Turner: A Life, 1997, p.251).

    It is, indeed, remarkable that someone who was collecting Turner in the 1830s and 40s, should then turn their attention to the most radical and uncompromising works of the Pre-Raphaelites. It was Windus who purchased what is widely seen as Holman Hunt's masterpiece, The Scapegoat, a picture described by a twenty-first century critic as being possibly "the most horrifying image in British art" and as "an undiluted portrayal of suffering that is both prolonged and without reprieve" that "can make us avert our eyes" (Richard Dorment, Daily Telegraph, 21 October 2008). This is a far cry from the watercolours of Turner's late period that Windus's young protegé Ruskin memorably describes in one of our letters as "lovely thoughts realized". Indeed, one of Windus's other notable later purchases, Ford Madox Brown's The Last of England (of which Windus owned the sketches as well as the main picture), Ruskin describes elsewhere as having a subject that was "so very ugly".

    The Turner letters in this collection comprise over a twentieth of the surviving corpus: just 314 letters by him are published in the Collected Correspondence of J. M. W. Turner, edited by John Gage (1980), with 28 addressed to him; the present correspondence was subsequently discovered and published by Selby Whittingham, 'Windus, Turner & Ruskin: New Documents', J.M.W. Turner, R.A., no. 2, December 1993, pp. 69-116.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £2,500 of the hammer price;
25% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £2,500 up to and including £300,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £300,000 up to and including £3,000,000;
and 13.9% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £3,000,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalog.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
Exempt from tax

Zero rated for VAT, no VAT will be added to the Hammer Price or the Buyer's Premium.