Joseph Mallord William Turner

Composition Note: Judas Returning the Thirty Pieces of Silver

c.1798

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 104 x 140 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D36659
Turner Bequest CCCLXXX 10

Catalogue entry

This is evidently a quick note recording the composition of a picture or print which Turner had seen. The subject is apparently from the Biblical account of Judas returning the thirty pieces of silver,1 and the original seems to date from the mid-seventeenth century; it may have been Dutch. The only recorded treatment of the subject by Rembrandt (1606–1669 ) is in a picture of 1629 (private collection), but this is a very different design. Other artists in Rembrandt’s circle produced pictures of the same subject, which in Turner’s day were thought to be by Rembrandt himself and widely known; for instance, in 1791 B.B. Evans published a mezzotint by Robert Dunkarton of the subject, though the composition is different from both Rembrandt’s 1629 work and that noted by Turner. It is possible that the work in question was a modern one, dating from Turner’s own day.
Finberg listed this sheet among the ‘Doubtful Drawings’ at the end of his Inventory,2 and his view that this memorandum may not be by Turner is perhaps correct, but it should be reconsidered: there is nothing inherently incompatible with Turner’s own style in the drawing, the card support is en suite with the others in the series catalogued in the present sub-section; and the blue colour marks on the card correspond with similar marks on other cards undoubtedly used by Turner.
1
Matthew 27:3–5.
2
Finberg 1909, II, p.1245.
Technical notes:
There are blue colour smears and grey colour trials.
Verso:
Blank; smears of blue colour; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram.

Andrew Wilton
March 2013

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