Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies for ‘Dawn of Christianity’


Not on display
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1337 x 651 mm
frame: 1357 x 671 x 40 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

441. [N05508] Studies for ‘Dawn of Christianity’ c. 1841


Canvas, 52 5/8 × 25 5/8 (133·5 × 65)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (? 298x, ‘1—Canvas with beginnings of pictures’; identified 1946 by number ‘298’ on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1951.

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 163, 191 n. 27; Butlin 1981, p. 45.

Only the 1856 Schedule included no. 298x, which was referred to as an extra picture found at Turner's studio in Queen Anne Street; for 298 see No. 45 [N05489].

The canvas seems originally to have been prepared for one of the Petworth landscapes, being similar in size and shape (see Nos. 283–91). Spoilt by water, it was subsequently used for six rough monochrome sketches in grey paint, most if not all working towards the composition of Dawn of Christianity (Flight into Egypt), exhibited in 1841 (No. 394). With the canvas used as an upright there is across the top a single landscape, flanked by trees. Below this are three related compositions, circular in composition like the exhibited picture. That on the left has a part-outline, following a circle, in the same grey paint as the sketch itself; the other two seem to have been circumscribed by scratching into the white ground. A further circular sketch, roughly framed in the same grey paint, was painted below but with the canvas the other way up; this contains a pyramidal feature that connects it more closely with the Egyptian setting of the finished oil, though in other respects it is less close in composition than are the sketches already mentioned. Finally, adjacent to this, there are rough indications of foliage, particularly close to the large tree on the left of the finished oil, with another feature further to the left.

The original canvas bears a duty stamp incorporating the apparent date of 1828 though the last digit is very difficult to read (see Butlin loc. cit.). This would, of course, support the suggestion that the canvas was originally prepared for one of the Petworth landscapes of c. 1828–9.

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


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