Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sandwich from the River Stour; Two Female Nudes, Probably a Model Posed with a Statue


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 76 x 98 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 42

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, at the top is a view of Sandwich, looking west up the River Stour with the Romanesque tower of St Clement’s Church and the ogee dome of St Peter’s. Compare the two-part view on folio 42 verso opposite (D35832; Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 41a). For other drawings of Sandwich, see under folio 6 recto (D35767).
With the page turned vertically, there is an unrelated, emphatically shaded study of what at first sight appear to be two nude women, seen from the back, the one on the left resting her elbow on the other’s shoulder. As Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell have observed, this may rather be a record of Turner’s novel but well-received practice of posing a living model in relation to the cast of a classical statue at the Royal Academy Life Class,1 demonstrating ‘how much the antique sculptors had refined nature’ as Richard and Samuel Redgrave put it.2
The attitude of the further figure’s legs and right elbow suggests the Medici Venus; compare frontal studies from Turner’s own student days in the 1790s (Tate D00059–D00060; Turner Bequest V F, G), and an 1830s drawing by William Etty (1787–1849) of a model with what may be the same cast (Courtauld Gallery, London).3 Turner served as Visitor or instructor to the Academy’s Life Class during ten of the years between 1812 and 1837, including 1830 and 1831;4 1830 has been assigned as a likely overall date for the somewhat miscellaneous contents of this sketchbook, as discussed in its Introduction.

Matthew Imms
September 2016

See Chumbley and Warrell 1989, pp.14–15, 26–7.
Richard and Samuel Redgrave, A Century of Painters of the English School, London 1866, vol.II, pp.93–4, as quoted in ibid., p.15, and cited p.16 note 16.
See ibid., pp.26–7, reproduced.
See full list of dates in Eric Shanes, ‘Royal Academy of Arts, London’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.272.

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