Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Hussar Officer


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 188 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXII 9 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg called this the back view of a hussar1 (a light cavalryman), but the loose annotated sketch, made with the page turned vertically, appears to show the man’s uniform from the front, with the peak of his plumed shako cap, the fastening of his collar at the throat, the tapering outline of the braided frogging on his jacket and the diagonal slings for his sword on his left side; he may be holding a swagger stick or riding crop in his right hand, resting on his hip.
Eric Shanes has noted this study in connection with Turner’s watercolour Richmond Hill of about 1825 (Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight),2 engraved in 1826 for the Literary Souvenir (Tate impression: T06132), which features a view of the River Thames from the hillside, populate by numerous figures including one in a similar uniform. There are various sketches of the view in the present book (see under folio 5 verso; D18603), and Turner may have observed soldiers at leisure there; he had depicted them among the elegant party in his large painting England: Richmond Hill, on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (Tate N00502),3 exhibited in 1819.
Finberg 1909, II, p.646.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.359 no.518, pl.135; see Shanes 2000, p.180.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.106–7 no.140, pl.145 (colour).
Technical notes:
There is some rubbing or offsetting of pigment from the watercolour on folio 10 recto opposite (D18611).

Matthew Imms
December 2014

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