Joseph Mallord William Turner

Commentary on Guercino’s ‘Mars and Venus’ (Inscription by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 128 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXII 36

Catalogue entry

For Guercino’s picture – thought by Turner to be by Domenichino – and Turner’s copy see folio 35 of this sketchbook (D04319). Turner’s remarks on it begun here are concluded on the verso of this leaf (D04321); a full transcription is given here for convenience:
Mars and Venus. Domenino [Finberg: Domenichino] | This is a good specimen of his | high color’d pictures but is not a good | composition as it is destitute of Grace | in Venus and dignity in Mars The Cupid | is trifling with a bow although the idea | is pretty the light is well managed tho | the shadow on Cupid’s shoulder for the head | of Venus is too small and the piece of white | at the Right of the Picture looks like Marble | but White is highly useful for it | gives the flesh a colour by its own | chalkiness | Upon a rich dark ground. | Venus – the ½ shadow cold yet inclining to | green produced by the first cold V [Finberg: U (or N)] over the ground. The vermillion or VR over which is rather feeble. This Brown over V in Shadow. The [continued on the verso, D04320] light with W Yellow perhaps too chalky, to | check which I take the piece of White to be | introduced, altho’ ineffectual owing to its position | the yellow drapery is produced by R. yellow over | the ground and glazed by Brown the Red the | same. The leaden colour’d drapery is unfortunate | as to tone and place, as it contributes to make the flesh too green.
Gage, without remarking the misattribution, notes that Turner’s comments show him already alert to colour contrast.

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

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