Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Reclining Nude with One Arm Reaching behind her Head


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 77 × 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCI b 53

Catalogue entry

Inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation, despite Finberg’s calling it a ‘group of figures’,1 the subject appears to be a solitary naked woman, reclining with her arms and head in shadow in the foreground, and her torso and thighs in the light beyond. There is perhaps a suggestion of a setting of bedclothes and curtains. The studies on folios 54 verso and 55 verso (D28869, D28871) each show the same or a similar pose from a different angle, and they were perhaps made from life on the same occasion (perhaps, as Ian Warrell has suggested, in an academic Life Class),2 as opposed to the many apparently imaginative bedroom figure scenes elsewhere in this book.
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
There is a slight continuation of the watercolour onto the unaccessioned recto of folio 54 opposite (its verso being D28869). The unaccessioned recto of the present leaf is inscribed in red ink ‘53’ and stamped ‘CCXCI(b) – 53’.

Matthew Imms
May 2014

Finberg 1909, II, p.935.
See Warrell 2003, p.28.

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