Joseph Mallord William Turner

Commentary on Guercino’s ‘Raising of Lazarus’ (Inscription by Turner)

1802

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 128 × 114 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04343
Turner Bequest LXXII 54

Catalogue entry

Finberg noted the relationship of these remarks to Turner’s copy on folio 53 of this sketchbook (D04342). Turner also refers to Sebastiano del Piombo’s picture of the same subject, 1516–19, which had been bought by John Julius Angerstein in London in 1798 (National Gallery, London). Turner’s comments here are concluded on the verso (D04344). For convenience they are transcribed in full below:
Tho little inferior in the composition [Finberg: The ...companion] | to del Piombo’s | it is a charming specimen of Guerchino’s Historical | mode of treatment the color so unites with the | subject as to impress it forcibly and anticipates | the characters which are here rather feeble the | Christ is dignified but wants energy and is | treated as a subordinate part than as the cause of the | figure of Lazarus, is the principle and the light very | scatter’d round by the assistants particularly the Boy on | the right that the cause is some time ere it gain | attention. Then the sombre tint which reigns thro | out acts forcible and impresses [Finberg: ... ? inforces] the value of this | mode of treatment that may surely be deem’d Historical colouring – which in my idea only | be applied when nature is not violated | but contributes by a high or low tone | to demand sympathetical ideas. | The tone of this paper 5 times darker appears [Finberg: paper . appears] to be the tone of Ground. The Shadows are his [Finberg: the] usual Brown and his lights thrown [Finberg: ...] so as to be given [Finberg: grey] | only by their Thinness. The red very sparing and | is blended with Brown and the light with Oker [Finberg: ?W.B. and ochre] | with great force and Body – the Ground every [continued on the verso] where pervades and upon inspection makes the | P. washy and perhaps if the Sky had been Bluer | the general tone might have suffer’d but neither is it [Finberg: but ... in it] | much below truth, but it has neither | value as a Sky or service as a foil, but rather | unites with the Blue drapery of Christ so much as | its only use is as a sombre Background.

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

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