Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Group of Figures ?with a Chariot


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 79 × 130 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XLVI 59 a

Catalogue entry

Made with the page turned horizontally, this rough sketch may be related to the same project as that on the following page folio 60 recto opposite (D02089), and perhaps that on folio 61 recto (D02091). The standing figure appears to be encouraging or haranguing the others, who consist of women and children; this is not, however, the Bard and his audience as Turner presents them in the 1800 watercolour Caernarvon Castle, North Wales (Tate D04164; Turner Bequest LXX M).1
The chariot-like form suggests a subject connected with the Biblical Crossing of the Red Sea, or The Army of the Medes destroyed in the Desart by a Whirlwind, which Turner was to exhibit in 1801 (now lost);2 compare folio 83 recto (D02120). Alternatively these drawings may illustrate one of the Plagues of Egypt, two of which Turner used as subjects for pictures about this time: The Fifth Plague of Egypt in 1800 (Indianapolis Museum of Art)3 – compare folios 79 recto and 116 verso (D02114, D02169); and The Tenth Plague of Egypt in 1802 (Tate N00470).4

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.329 no.263, pl.52.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.13–15 no.15.
Ibid., pp.10–12 no.13, pl.10 (colour).
Ibid., pp.16–17 no.17, pl.13 (colour).

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