Joseph Mallord William Turner

?A Curtained Bed, with Naked Figures


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 79 × 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCI c 12

Catalogue entry

It has been proposed that the sequence between folio 1 recto (D28874) and here ‘form a series of studies narrating an erotic adventure’ as distinct from other ‘studies on similar themes throughout the book’.1 There may be a case for extending or shortening this range slightly – Raphael Rosenberg has suggested that it ends at folio 11 recto (D28885),2 after the throes of passion – but in principle this idea seems likely, as some of the scenes are more conventionally pictorial and carefully defined by drawing with the brush (albeit sometimes sexually explicit) than the often rather rough, undeveloped washes later on.
The present work is upside-down in relation to the sketchbook’s foliation, and more probably belongs with a run of similarly inverted studies on the versos extending towards the back of the book in terms of its current numbering; these form a continuous sequence, albeit without a narrative, and were probably made working in from the ‘back’. Here, there seem to be the somewhat disjointed forms of a pale figure or figures against a dark background which may represent the shadowy interior of a curtained bed.
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
Wilton 1974, p.126; see also Andrew Wilton in John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, p.[239] under no.173.
See Raphael Rosenberg, ‘Turner’ in Max Hollein and Rosenberg, Turner Hugo Moreau: Entdeckung der Abstraktion, exhibition catalogue, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt 2007, p.327 note 23.
Technical notes:
The unaccessioned, blank recto is numbered in red ink ‘12’ and stamped ‘CCXCI(c) – 12’.

Matthew Imms
May 2014

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