Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Lady in a Van Dyck Costume


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1213 × 911 mm
frame: 1510 × 1240 × 125 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

Another example of the mature Turner's investigations of the old masters, this quite finished study is in the manner of female portraits by Van Dyck. It was most probably inspired by pictures he saw in the collection at Petworth, but might also have alluded to a contemporary fashion for being portrayed in Van Dyck costume, or in the style of portraits by Rubens. This kind of looking back to the past was pronounced in British painting in the 1830s, not least in portraiture.

Gallery label, September 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

[from] Nos. 444–9: Figure Subjects and Interiors associated with Petworth and East Cowes Castle, c. 1830–7

THESE works, none of which were exhibited by Turner, nor therefore given titles by him, have all been associated with Petworth since they were inventoried in the twentieth century, partly because of their similarity to the Petworth interiors with figures painted in body colour on blue paper (CCXLIV) and partly because they relate to such exhibited pictures associated with Petworth as Jessica, Lord Percy under Attainder and Watteau Study (Nos. 333 [T03887], 338 [N00515] and 340 [N00514]). It has recently been discovered by Patrick Youngblood, however, that at least one of these paintings, that formerly known as Music Party, Petworth (No. 447 [N03550]), shows an interior at East Cowes Castle. In fact the origins of this picture are even more complex; see the entry for this work. It is probably a mistake to attach these works too closely to any specific location, though Turner's imagination was clearly stimulated by the social life at these two houses in which, through his friendship with Lord Egremont and John Nash, he was particularly at home.

The dating of these works also depends on that of the paintings mentioned above, which were exhibited in 1830 and 1831, together with further scenes of figures in interiors such as Pilate washing his Hands, also exhibited in 1830 (No. 332 [N00510]), and Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, exhibited in 1832 (No. 346 [N00517]). Rembrandt's Daughter, exhibited in 1827 (No. 238), and Boccaccio, exhibited the following year and also associated with East Cowes Castle (No. 244 [N00507]), are perhaps slightly less advanced in style than these unfinished interiors which seem to form a series painted over a number of years up to 1837, the year that Lord Egremont's death bought an end to Turner's association with Petworth (see under No. 449 [N01988]). All, save No. 444 [N05511], reflect a renewed interest in the work of Rembrandt, seen with Turner's own emphasis on light and colour.

Lit. Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, pp. 44–5; Gowing 1966, p. 36; Wilton 1979, pp. 208–10; Youngblood 1983, pp. 16–17.

444. [N05511] A Lady in Van Dyck Costume c. 1830–35


Canvas, 47 3/4 × 35 7/8 (121 × 91)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Exh. Arts Council tour 1952 (15); Antwerp 1953–4.

Lit. Davies 1946, p. 163; Rothenstein and Butlin 1964, p. 45; Gage 1969, p. 244 n. 109; Reynolds 1969, pp. 137–8.

The three-quarter-length format, the figure's pose, and particularly the placing of her arms, the richly-coloured loose sleeves and the opening onto a view of a landscape are all based on portraits by or attributed to Van Dyck at Petworth, and this picture probably dates from about the same time as Lord Percy under Attainder (No. 338 [N00515]), exhibited in 1831, which is based on the same portraits. It also forms one of the series of paintings of the figure on much the same relatively large scale that also includes the Reclining Venus painted at Rome in 1828 (No. 296 [N05498]). Jessica, R.A. 1830 No. 333), and Two Women with a Letter of c. 1835 (No. 448 [N05501]).

An area along the bottom, reaching up almost to the bottom of the sleeve, was repainted at the National Gallery in 1944 to replace losses.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984


You might like

In the shop