Joseph Mallord William Turner

Catania, Sicily, for the ‘Sequels to the Liber Studiorum’


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Mezzotint on paper
Image: 154 × 216 mm
Purchased 1988

Catalogue entry

T05202 Catania, Sicily, for theSequels to the Liber Studiorum

Mezzotint 154 × 216 (6 1/16 × 8 1/2) on wove paper 273 × 343 (10 3/4 × 13 1/2); plate-mark 193 × 256 (7 5/8 × 10 1/16)
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1988
Prov: ...; N.W. Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
Lit: Rawlinson II, 1913, no.805, late nineteenth-century impression printed in brown ink; for other general literature see T04914-T04916

Rawlinson records (II 1913, p.388) that the copper plate for this print was bought by Colnaghi at the Turner sales of 1873–4. This is confirmed by an annotated copy of Christie's sale catalogue for 24–8 March 1873, in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, in which lot 924, the plate entitled ‘Venice’, is shown as having been purchased by Colnaghi for £36. 15s. (the subject of T05202 has only in recent years been identified as a view of Catania; it was previously thought to show either Venice, or a view of St Peter's in Rome in a thunderstorm; see J.M.W. Turner, exh. cat., Grand Palais, Paris 1983, nos.159–60 and Lyles and Perkins 1989, no.53). Unlike the plates in steel, which had generally corroded badly, this was a copper plate and survived in good condition. Impressions printed in black ink taken by Colnaghi's after the plate had been re-touched (Rawlinson II 1913, p.388) are amongst the best of all late nineteeth-century impressions of the ‘Little Liber’ plates, equalled for quality perhaps only by similar impressions of ‘Gloucester Cathedral’ where the copper plate (also bought by Colnaghi's) had survived in good condition as well (see Lyles and Perkins 1989, nos.53, 55). This impression printed in brown ink is, however, rather thin: either it was taken by Seymour Haden for Turner's executors just before the Turner sales, before the plate was retouched; or it was taken by Colnaghi's after the plate had become considerably more worn. There is a related watercolour in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Wilton 1979, no.774). For a general history of this series, see introductory section to T04914-T04916 above.

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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