Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sheet of Studies: An Old Bearded Man Seen in Profile with a Boy Reaching Past him, Holding a Hat


In Tate Britain

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk and watercolour on paper
Support: 344 × 242 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XXIX O

Catalogue entry

Chumbley and Warrell plausibly suggest that this sheet was executed during Turner’s time at the Academy Life Class; see also Tate D00719, D00721 and D00723 (Turner Bequest XXIX N, P, and R). They also propose that the boy’s face is a self-portrait. This is borne out by the presence on the sheet of a study in pencil of an eye and a nose, very possibly related to the head of the boy and likely to have been drawn in a mirror. Wilton notes that the composition, with the boy reaching forward towards the picture plane past another figure, anticipates that of the unfinished canvas Two Women with a Letter (Tate N05501),1 probably of about 1830. The monogram appears to be more than a mere exercise in calligraphy, and is apparently intended as a signature to the drawing.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.282 no.448, pl.449 (colour).

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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