Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Group of Figures round a Seated Woman; ?a Landscape Composition or Figures


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 × 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 44

Catalogue entry

The larger of these two apparently unrelated studies is continued on folio 24 recto opposite (D04947; Turner Bequest LXXXI 45), but that page has mostly been torn out, leaving a boldly sketched fragment that is difficult to interpret. It may be a stormy landscape, background to one of the cataclysmic subjects Turner was planning in this sketchbook, or to the painting of Jason, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1802 (Tate N00471);1 see folio 4 recto (D04908; Turner Bequest LXXXI 7). It seems to have been intended to be read with the book inverted: there is a straight line parallel with the top edge of the book that perhaps marks the lower border of the image, which may then also be read as a group of large–scale figures.
The smaller group of figures, with men standing round a seated woman in bright light, is not evidently connected with this larger scene. It may be a ‘Holy Family’, perhaps associated with the rough sketch on folio 17 verso (D04935; Turner Bequest LXXXI 34), which appears to show the Adoration of the Shepherds; alternatively it may be related to the ‘Flight into Egypt’ subject on folios 31 verso and 33 recto (D04962, D04965; Turner Bequest LXXXI 60, 63).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.18 no.19, pl.15.

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