Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Woman Engaged in Sexual Activity; ?a Wooded Landscape


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

This faint drawing shows the profile of a woman with wavy hair or perhaps a mob cap interacting with a barely but unambiguously defined male partner. The recto is D40020 (Turner Bequest CCCLXV A), where one of the erotic studies is equally rudimentary in its focus on the point of contact.
The main drawing occupies only the bottom right quadrant of the sheet, and is inverted relative to those on the recto. There are slight, unrelated pencil indications across the top half, possibly showing a landscape. It may be a rural Thames river scene with trees, buildings and boats, typical of the period around 1805 when Turner was based at Isleworth; see David Blayney Brown’s ‘Thames Sketchbooks c.1804–14’ section in this catalogue.
Whether by accident or design, this sheet is not listed in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory of the Turner Bequest,1 nor is the drawing on this side mentioned in manuscript notes in copies use by earlier curators kept at Tate Britain. For further details, see under D40020.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909.
Technical notes:
The sheet was once heavily folded into quarters, and again into eights, though whether by Turner or National Gallery officials is unknown.1

Matthew Imms
September 2016

See Warrell 2003, pp.18–19.

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