Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches at Genzano Including Notes on Local Costume and a Group of Men Playing Cards


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 88

Catalogue entry

The various subjects of the sketches scattered across this page suggest that Turner may have spent some time at Genzano, possibly breaking his journey here to rest and eat. Amongst the details of everyday life which seem to have interested him are the shapes of rustic pots and jugs, an oil can and some architectural detailing across a building. He has also drawn a rough but lively study of a group of men in hats playing cards.
Another feature to catch Turner’s eye was the characteristic costume of the local men and women. On this page he has interspersed drawn studies of clothes, shoes and hair with annotations describing their colour and appearance. Across the top of the page next to the bust of a woman in profile he has written: ‘Women of Albano and Gensarno white caps with a star behind, some a Black cap. the Hair is often | fastened with Ribbon on which a white cloth is fixed the front appears flat and | Square. the back falls to a point in some, others open work’. These distinctive headdresses of folded material, described by Samuel Rogers as ‘flat as a tile’, were commonly worn by peasant women throughout the region.1 In the bottom right-hand corner, in between a man in a smock and hat, and a profile of a woman with a bun, Turner has also noted ‘white Stocks’ and ‘the colour | Elbow and | Skirts or with | another colour’ and ‘high | shoes | tied with | leather or Rib’ and ‘Shoes by wt Ribbon’. Other similar records can be found on folios 1 verso, 2 verso, 16 verso and 35 (D15297, D15299, D15324, D15360). Turner’s record of this native style of dress later informed his depiction of the figures populating his watercolours related to the area, such as the contadina and bandit in Lake Albano circa 1828 (private collection),2 and the women in the vignette Lake Nemi circa 1835–40 (Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati),3 and Lake Nemi circa 1840 (British Museum).4

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Quoted in Powell 1987, p.206 note 76.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.731; see also Powell 1987, pp.127–9, reproduced fig.35 and colour pl.135 (detail).
Wilton 1979, no.1311.
Ibid, no.1381, see Powell 1987, reproduced colour pl.40.

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