Joseph Mallord William Turner

Head of a Person Asleep


Oil paint on canvas
Support: 244 x 302 mm
frame: 289 x 342 x 37 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

452. [N05494] Head of a Person asleep c. 1835


Canvas, 9 5/8 × 11 7/8 (24·5 × 30)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (? 273, 1 unidentified ‘,, 10 1/2" ×,,9 3/4"’, presumably meaning ‘0 ft 10 1/2 in by 0 ft 9 3/4 in’); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Lit. Davies 1946, p. 190.

Similar to two watercolours of head traditionally said to have been done from figures lying on the beach at Margate when Turner was staying there with Mrs Booth at some time between 1827 and 1846, when Mrs Booth moved to a house in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. The first is the Head of a Fishwife lying in the Sun, repr. Connoisseur lxix 1924, p. 137, formerly in the collection of Archibald G.B. Russell and with Roland, Browse and Delbanco in 1972. The other, sold at Sotheby's 10 March 1965 (36), now belongs to W. Wood Prince, Chicago. What is probably another version of the same story is John Pye's account of Turner drawing the head of a drowned girl at Chelsea (Falk 1938, p. 220). However, the oil head, with its relatively dark colouring, may be an indoor scene, reflecting the bedroom studies done at Petworth and elsewhere.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984