Joseph Mallord William Turner

St John the Baptist Preaching, after Pier Francesco Mola


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 128 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXII 18

Catalogue entry

The St John the Baptist is a late work by Mola (Pier Francesco Mola 1612–66). It depicts the saint preaching in the wilderness of Judea. Turner’s interest is likely to have been prompted by his knowledge of another version of this subject by the artist, on landscape format, bought from the Orléans collection by the Duke of Bridgewater in 1798/9 (Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, Madrid). He made three other copies after pictures by Mola in the Louvre. One of Mola’s Vision of St Bruno, drawn in his France, Savoy, Piedmont sketchbook (Tate D04394; Turner Bequest LXXIII 2), may have been the first copy he made in the museum. The other drawings, in the present sketchbook, are of Erminia and Valfrino Tending the Wounded Tancred (folio 79, D04378) and Erminia, Watching her Flock, Carving Tancred’s Name on a Tree (folio 80, D04379). During one of his own visits to the gallery Joseph Farington noted that the connoisseur Charles Long was ‘delighted with some small pictures by Mola’.1 Turner praised Mola’s ‘Historical Landscapes’ in a later lecture.2
Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre eds., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.V, New Haven and London 1979, p.1819 (1 September 1802).
Quoted by Jerrold Ziff, ‘Turner and Poussin’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.105, 1963, pp.320, note 36.

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

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