Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Woman Leaning on a Sill or Table, with an Old Man Pushing aside a Curtain behind Her


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 436 × 271 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 41

Catalogue entry

The drawing is continued a little way onto folio 21 verso opposite (D04942; Turner Bequest LXXXI 40a). A rapid sketch of a subject similar to this is on folio 1 recto (D04902; Turner Bequest LXXXI 1). Finberg suggested that the figures represent Joseph and Mary,1 but this is doubtful. The study is clearly related to the painting currently titled The Procuress; (?) Judith with the Head of Holofernes (Tate N05500),2 where the old man is altered into a crone.
The painting was formerly dated to around 1803, and associated with Titian–inspired works such as the Holy Family of that year (Tate N00473).3 The present author has argued, however, that it may belong to the second Roman stay of 1828, when Turner was sharing rooms with his friend and colleague Charles Lock Eastlake (1793–1865), and illustrates the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes (or perhaps Salome and John the Baptist), while noting the apparent connection with this study in the Calais Pier book.4
A sketch with a rather similar composition, showing a woman looking down while two men peer over her shoulder, is on folio 23 verso (D04946; Turner Bequest LXXXI 44); see also folio 75 recto (D05049; Turner Bequest LXXXI 147).
See Finberg 1909, I, p.215.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.115 no.152, pl.158.
Ibid., pp.38–9 no.49, pl.60.
See Wilton 1989, pp.28, 30–2.
Technical notes:
There are splashes of brownish–pink colour.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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