Joseph Mallord William Turner

Recipe for a Cure; Grouped Figures and Coastal Architecture


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 187 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Catalogue entry

With the sketchbook turned vertically, Turner has inscribed the right-hand side of this inside cover with a recipe for a cure. It reads:
1 oz of Cinnamon water
1 grain Epicackuana,
35 drops Laudanum,
2 drams of Spirits of Lavender
2 dr of Tincture of Rhubarb.
Next to it he notes that the mixture ought to be taken ‘– within an Hour | after the attack’. The recipe appears again towards the middle of the page. The recipe first mentioned is a little more detailed and written in a slightly clearer hand so it may be intended as a fair copy of the other inscription. A similar recipe features on one of the inside covers of the Brussels up to Mannheim sketchbook of 1833 (Tate D41099; Turner Bequest CCXCVI) which has led art historian James Hamilton to suppose that Turner was suffering from a chronic ailment in those years. Art historian Ian Warrell on the other hand notes the resemblance of the recipe to contemporary diarrhoea treatments, connecting its presence here to Turner’s more general concerns about the cholera epidemic burgeoning across Europe in 1832.
Also on this inside cover are two small pencil sketches of figures grouped in front of tall architectural structures. The larger sketch to the left-hand side of the page is too indeterminate to suggest a location although the slight drawing towards the bottom centre of the page, framed within a drawn square, seems also to feature ships’ masts and rigging. The scrawled inscription next to this passage may read Mont St Michel, which would locate the scene on the Normandy coast and identify the towering structure behind as the medieval fortified island of that name. Turner had sketched this monument several times over the course of the 1820s; see, for example, Tate D25379 (Turner Bequest CCLXIII 256) and D23386 (Turner Bequest CCL 27a).

John Chu
April 2014

Read full Catalogue entry


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