Joseph Mallord William Turner

Copies of Tintoretto’s ‘Christ before Pilate’ and Veronese’s ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’, Venice


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 88 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXI 24 a

Catalogue entry

The sketches on this page represent schematic copies of paintings viewed by Turner during his 1819 visit to Venice. On the left-hand side is a rendition of Christ before Pilate, 1566–7, one of a famous cycle of paintings by Tintoretto (1518–94) in the Sala dell’Albergo of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco.1 Ian Warrell has suggested that the subject of this work, as well as the artist’s general use of colouring and chiaroscuro, may have directly inspired Turner’s later oil painting, Pilate Washing his Hands exhibited 1830 (Tate, N00510).2 Further sketches related to the Scuola Grande and the Chiesa di San Rocco can be seen on folios 23 verso, 25 verso–27 and 29 verso–30 verso (D13902, D13906–D13909 and D13914–D13916).
As Finberg first identified,3 the study in the top right hand corner depicts The Family of Darius before Alexander 1565–7 (National Gallery), by Paolo Veronese (circa 1528–1588), which could then be found in the Palazzo Pisani.4 Turner had been instructed to view this work by James Hakewill and exhorted to study it carefully on behalf of Hakewill’s wife, see the inscription on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, folio 25 (D13904). Turner has dutifully annotated the sketch with various inscriptions on the colour and tonal values of the composition, using a shorthand notation to describe areas such as the ‘B[rown] Yel[low]’ of the man on the far left-hand side, the ‘R[ed]’ robe of the central protagonist, and the ‘W[hite]’ of the background arches. He has also indicated the position of the figure which he believed to be ‘Alex[ander]’.5 Part of the study spills over onto the opposite sheet.

Nicola Moorby
March 2010

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.332. See Warrell 2003, p.62.
Finberg 1909, p.498 and Finberg 1930, p.46.
George 1996, p.26. The author erroneously describes Turner’s inscriptions as numbers, rather than letters.

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