after Joseph Mallord William Turner, engraver John P. Quilley

The Deluge


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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After Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Engraver John P. Quilley 1812–1842
Mezzotint on paper
Image: 379 × 577 mm
Purchased 1986

Catalogue entry

T04838 The Deluge engr. J.P. Quilley, ? pub.1828

Mezzotint 380 × 577 (14 15/16 × 22 3/4) on wove paper 588 × 872 (23 7/16 × 34 3/8); plate-mark 460 × 630 (18 1/8 × 24 13/16)
Engraved inscriptions: ‘Painted by J.M.W. Turner, R.A’ below image b.l. and ‘Engraved by I.P. Quilley’ below image b.r.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1986
Prov: ...; N.W.Lott and H.J. Gerrish Ltd, from whom bt by Tate Gallery
Exh: Tate Gallery 1989–90 (56, repr.)
Lit: Rawlinson II 1913, no.794, engraver's proof (b); Lyles and Perkins 1989, pp.62–3, no.56, repr.

In the late 1820s Turner supervised the production of a number of large-scale mezzotints after his oils, chiefly subjects which he had painted much earlier in his career. T 04838 was based on ‘The Deluge’, which was painted c. 1805 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1813 (Tate Gallery, N 00493; Butlin and Joll 1984, no.55). In their dark tonality many of Turner's early pictures lent themselves particularly well to translation into mezzotint.

It has been suggested that Turner's wish to bring ‘The Deluge’ to the public's attention again in 1828 by publishing a mezzotint of it may have been prompted by increasing competition from two younger painters who specialised in similar apocalyptic subjects, John Martin and Francis Danby (see Andrew Wilton, Turner and the Sublime, exh. cat., British Museum 1980, p.139). It was in 1826 that Martin produced his first version of a deluge subject, publishing a mezzotint of it in 1828. Danby's first biblical canvas was exhibited in 1825. Quilley's mezzotint includes a number of macabre details which are absent from the original oil and which suggest that Turner may indeed have been responding to the sensationalist canvases of these two rivals. The barest indication of a snake in the water in the foreground of the oil has been transformed in the print into a group of intertwined and writhing serpents; the print also adds a pair of outstretched hands protruding just above the surface of the water to the left, indicating the futile struggle of a panic-stricken victim who has already been engulfed. Both these details were pencilled in by Turner on an early engraver's proof now in the British Museum (1893-6-12-172).

The latest known impression of this engraving (of which there is an example in the British Museum, 1948-4-10-145) carries a dedication line ‘to The Right Honorable (the late) Earl of Carysfort KP’ and the publication line ‘London, Published June 24, 1828, by Moon, Boys & Graves, Printsellers to the King, 6 Pall Mall’. However, Rawlinson expresses doubts as to whether the print was actually published (Rawlinson II 1913, p.383), and indeed the Catalogue of the Fourth Portion of the Engravings from the Works of J.M.W. Turner R.A. (Turner sales, Christie's, 3–7 March 1874) lists ‘The Deluge’ under a sequence of ‘the unpublished mezzotints’.

In 1830 Quilley engraved another large mezzotint after Turner, ‘The Garden of Boccaccio - The Birdcage’ (Rawlinson II 1913, no.797), and in 1831 he also collaborated with John Martin in the production of a large mezzotint of ‘Pandemonium’ (see M.J. Campbell, John Martin: Visionary Printmaker, exh. cat., York City Art Gallery 1992, pp.108–9). However, little is known about his life or training (Rawlinson mistakenly refers to him as ‘J.B.’ Quilley).

Published in:
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986-88, London 1996

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