Joseph Mallord William Turner

Academy Study of a Kneeling Male Nude Holding a Sword and Gigantic Decapitated Head


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 135 × 95 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XL 24 a

Catalogue entry

This study is continued on folio 27 recto opposite (D01505; Turner Bequest XL 25). It has the appearance of a drawing made in the Life Class of the Royal Academy, which Turner attended sporadically throughout the 1790s (see the ‘Royal Academy c.1789–1799’ section of this catalogue). The gigantic head was presumably added from the imagination. The drawing relates to another on folios 28 verso–29 recto (D01508–D01509; Turner Bequest XL 26a–27), which shows what is apparently the same model in the same pose, from the opposite viewpoint, without the head or sword, and without the platform and column that form a setting here.
The ostensible ‘subject’ of this pose is presumably David with the head of Goliath, but it is possible that Turner had other ideas in mind, and that there is a connection with the studies of men in armour scrambling over rocks that also figure in this book; see folios 6 verso–7 recto and 13 recto (D01472–D01473, D01484).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Read full Catalogue entry


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