Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Albrecht Dürer (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 83 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIII 30 a

Catalogue entry

The main inscription reads:
Small subjects from the [Bible deleted] New | testament of the crucifixion of Christ. | generally dated 1508 11 12. but they | notwithstanding the monogram [Dürer’s monogram sketched here] appear not | to be wooden cuts but the early ingraving after | that period now if as can be seen some are | dated .. 58 it allows 50 years in which there does | not appear that progressive improvement appearing | always in the works of those striving for pre-eminence | for these possess the style of his most finished and | later works. And yet he would not at that time | be said to have attained his powers | of 20 years | consult Pilkington as to his birth, age.
Below is added in pencil ‘1470 1 1528’.
Turner’s notes must be connected with preparations for his lectures as Professor of Perspective at the Royal Academy. The print by Dürer referred to here is Christ on the Cross, 1508, from The Small Passion. It is indeed an engraving and has Dürer’s monogram. Matthew Pilkington’s The Gentleman’s and Connoisseur’s Dictionary of Painters was first published in 1770 and subsequently appeared in revised editions by James Barry (1798) and Henry Fuseli (1805), the latter containing additional (hostile) remarks on Dürer. Turner also referred to Pilkington in his Perspective sketchbook; see notes to Tate D07435; Turner Bequest CVIII 47 for the author and for Matthew Imms’s conclusion that Turner used the 1798 edition, and to Tate D07364; Turner Bequest CVIII 5a where Turner gives Dürer’s dates as 1471–1528 (as generally accepted today) from page 197 of Pilkington’s book.

David Blayney Brown
July 2009

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