Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Seated Woman Embracing a Standing Child

c.1808–18

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 89 x 112 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D12205
Turner Bequest CLIV a 58 a

Catalogue entry

This drawing is inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation. While the child wears a simple calf-length garment, the woman is dressed in flowing robes or a cloak, and wears an elaborate hat or plumed helmet. She is possibly intended as a mythological figure. Whether Turner drew the subject from posed models in costume, from imagination or from a work by another artist has yet to be established.
Although the figures do not correlate precisely, there is possibly a connection with the group in Turner’s Liber Studiorum subject Woman and Tambourine, where a helmeted woman, probably Athena/Minerva, sits supporting a dancing child, perhaps Eros/Cupid; see the entry for the watercolour study of about 1806–7 (Tate D08103; Turner Bequest CXVI B), engraved in 1807 (Tate impressions: A00915, A00916). If there is a link, this study may be a little earlier than the broad range given here, covering the contents of the sketchbook datable by other criteria.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

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