Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Angel Troubling the Pool


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 228 x 290 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 273

Display caption

Uniquely, Turner has here adapted a watercolour of the Alps to include a Biblical subject. It illustrates John 5.2-4: 'Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered; waiting for the movement of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water; whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.'
'Troubling' in this usage means to stir up the waters to make them thick or muddy. Turner has moved the action from Jerusalem to the Alps. A queue of sick people waits by the pool.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry


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