Joseph Mallord William Turner A Curtained Bed, with a Man and Woman Embracing c.1834–6

Artwork details

A Curtained Bed, with a Man and Woman Embracing
Date c.1834–6
Medium Watercolour on paper
Dimensions Support: 77 x 101 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCI b 42
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, within the darkness of a curtained bed a man and woman embrace as they look down with their faces cheek to cheek in a potentially tender or melancholy image; it is unclear whether the pale shapes among the bedclothes in the foreground are intended as another figure or figures. Gerald Wilkinson has described this as the ‘interior climax of the sequence’ of erotic subjects in this sketchbook: ‘Here is no orgasm of primary colours, but instead a complex of shadows enclosing two figures, crouching together, who seem to stare ... but we cannot quite see.’1
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this book, see the Introduction.
When this sketchbook was shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1966, the exhibited pages were not specified in the catalogue, and two double page spreads were reproduced: this and folio 41 verso opposite (D28844), and folios 35 verso–36 recto (D28835, D28837).
Wilkinson 1975, p.76.

Matthew Imms
May 2014

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