Joseph Mallord William Turner

Courtroom Scene; Clerk, Chairman of the Jury and Other Figures

c.1805–9

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 115 x 190 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D06437
Turner Bequest XCIX 47 a

Catalogue entry

Drawn with the sketchbook inverted. Finberg’s reading of Turner’s inscription, as a list of coach passengers, misses the similarity of these figures to those on the facing page, folio 52 (D06438; Turner Bequest XCIX 48), identified by Turner as the clerk and jury of a court leet. The leet, a petty criminal court administering local justice, dated from early medieval times and was already in decline by the mid fourteenth century although it survived into the nineteenth. In both Turner’s drawings, but more clearly in the present case, the clerk reads from a list and the chairman of the jury stands before him. Where and when Turner witnessed these scenes is unknown, but, in the context of this sketchbook, it might have been in Kent. Hamilton describes the subject as ‘a rural hearing ... almost certainly drawn during one of the many court appearances Turner seems to have made to secure his rights and income as a landlord’ but also perhaps the basis for a genre painting.

David Blayney Brown
March 2009

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