Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Sketches in the Bay of Salerno; and a Composition Idea for a Picture of the ‘Flight into Egypt’ 1819

Artwork details

Artist
Title
?Sketches in the Bay of Salerno; and a Composition Idea for a Picture of the ‘Flight into Egypt’
From Naples, Paestum and Rome Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CLXXXVI
Date 1819
Medium Graphite on paper
Dimensions Support: 113 x 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15978
Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 34
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Catalogue entry

The four sketches on this page represent a series of views, possibly within the Bay of Salerno although the individual locations remain unidentified. The rough, uncertain nature of the draughtsmanship suggests that they were executed from a moving carriage. At the bottom of the page is an inverted drawing depicting one of the many medieval watch-towers which can be found along the Amalfi coast and Gulf of Salerno.1 Similar structures can be seen on folios 37, 37 verso, 41, 42 (D15980, D15981, D15988, D15990; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 35, 35a, 39, 40).
The inscription below the third sketch from the top has led Gerald Finley to suggest that this sketchbook page represents an early contemplation for a picture on the subject of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.2 Turner eventually completed an oil painting on this theme, Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt), exhibited 1841 (Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland), the composition of which incorporates a palm tree and a rocky bay reminiscent of the second scene from the top.3

Nicola Moorby
July 2010

1
See for example views in a 1793 sketchbook (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), reproduced in Anthony Blunt, Catalogue of Seven Sketch-Books by John Robert Cozens, Sothebys, London 1973, vol.III, nos.11, 12, 15, 16, 18.
2
Finley 1999, p.232 note 3.
3
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.394.

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