Joseph Mallord William Turner

Shipping; a Group of Figures

c.1799–1805

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

Medium
Chalk on paper
Dimensions
Support: 271 x 436 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04935
Turner Bequest LXXXI 34

Catalogue entry

The figure study is superimposed on the right–hand side of the sea study, which was made with the page turned horizontally, and perhaps connected with the Sun Rising through Vapour; Fishermen Cleaning and Selling Fish, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1807 (National Gallery, London);1 see under folio 12 verso (D04925; Turner Bequest LXXXI 24). Another case of drawings superimposed is on the recto (D04934; Turner Bequest LXXXI 33).
The group of figures, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, is difficult to read but may be an idea for a Nativity scene, with Mother and Child surrounding by kneeling figures and angels. Turner had already considered treating this subject in a sketch of about 1797–8, where the figures are placed among the ruins of Kirkstall Priory (Tate D04169; Turner Bequest LXX R). On other pages he can be seen working out ideas for a different subject featuring the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child: the Flight into Egypt, realised as an oil painting that was shown at the Royal Academy in 1803 under the title Holy Family (Tate N00473).2

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

1
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.53–4 no.69, pl.79 (colour).
2
Ibid., pp.38–9 no.49, pl.60.

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