Joseph Mallord William Turner

Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on mahogany
Support: 921 × 705 mm
frame: 1145 × 940 × 110 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

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During the 1830s, Turner took up religious themes which reflected his study of earlier painters such as Rembrandt. Such subjects required him to confront the challenge of painting figures, which he admitted 'are not my style'. Not surprisingly, he made some false starts, and this is probably a picture which was abandoned as unsatisfactory while still in progress, rather than a separate sketch or study. It was probably begun as a companion New Testament subject to his Old Testament Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego (in Tate Collection) exhibited in 1832. It is painted on an identical mahogany panel from the same supplier.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

436. [N05474] Christ driving the Traders from the Temple c. 1832


Mahogany, 36 1/4 × 27 3/4 (92 × 70·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (153, one of ‘3 each (ditto [panel])’ 3'0" × 2'3"; identified by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 157, 188 n. 16; Wilton 1979, p. 210.

Similar in style, though unfinished, to Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego (No. 346 [N00517]) which was exhibited in 1832, and painted on an identically labelled prepared panel by R. Davy. This may well have been intended as a complementary New Testament scene. The picture over the altar shows the parallel text of Moses breaking the Tables of the Law. Davies, pointing out that the architectural setting is very Romish, suggests that the picture reflects Turner's Anti-Catholicism.

The dark splash to the right of centre and other spots elsewhere, only partly removable during restoration treatment in 1975, seem to be the result of an accident in Turner's studio and may account for his abandoning the picture.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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