152. [N05500] The Procuress? c. 1805?
THE TATE GALLERY, LONDON (5500)
Canvas, 47 7/4 × 36 (121·5 × 91·5)
Coll. Turner Bequest 1856; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.
Lit. Davies 1946, p. 161; Ziff 1980, p. 169.
Possibly developed from the sketch in black and white chalks in the ‘Calais Pier’ sketchbook, LXXXI-41, where, however, the figure to the left and behind the young woman appears to be male and bearded, though this is not altogether certain (Finberg 1909, p. 215, entitled the drawing ‘Study for Joseph and Mary (?)’; repr. in colour Wilkinson 1974, p. 59). Martin Davies identified the painting as representing ‘Death before Dishonour’. The present title, derived from seventeenth-century Dutch prototypes, is due to Lawrence Gowing.
At all events this unfinished oil, painted in a generally Titianesque manner, is probably fairly early, deriving from Turner's experience of Titian at the Louvre in 1802, rather than from the period of such figure paintings of comparable scale as No. 448 [N05501]. On the other hand, it could have resulted from Turner's renewed interest in Titian during his Italian journey of 1828–9; c.f. Nos. 293 [N00513] and 296 [N05498]. Jerrold Ziff, in his review of the first edition of this catalogue, supports the earlier dating of c. 1803–5 for both Nos. 152 [N05500] and 153 [N05497].
The back of the canvas is covered with a normal ground and it seems that the composition was painted on what would normally be the unprimed reverse, the oil medium having impregnated the canvas in many areas.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984