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The Cover
October 17, 2007

Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight

Author Affiliations
 

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(15):1738. doi:10.1001/jama.298.15.1738

When the British Houses of Parliament burned on the night of October 16, 1834, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was there with his sketchbook. The result was nine watercolors and several pencil notations, many made from a boat in the River Thames. Later, he would produce a more finished watercolor and two masterful oils (JAMA cover, October 16, 1981). The interplay of light between fire and water would become one of Turner's signature themes. Less catastrophic but no less masterful is a work on this theme executed the following year, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Moonlight (cover ). The scene is the mouth of the River Tyne, where coal brought from Durham and Northumberland counties by flat-bottomed boats is being loaded by torchlight onto waiting ships. Tiny human figures may be seen silhouetted at the right as they load the coal. A cloud of black dust and smoke partially obscures the forest of masts, a harbinger of the London fog the coal will bring. To the right already loaded stately square-riggers stand poised to sail on the tide. Above it all a full moon turns the sea into opalescent mother-of-pearl. In the distance are hints of an industrial city.

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