Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for a Picture of the First Plague of Egypt

c.1799–1805

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Chalk on paper
Dimensions
Support: 436 x 271 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D04944
Turner Bequest LXXXI 42

Catalogue entry

The subject is continued on folio 23 recto opposite (D04945; Turner Bequest LXXXI 43). The water turned to blood was the first of the ten Biblical plagues visited by God on the Egyptians while the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt (Exodus 7: 19–25). There are studies relating to two other plagues in this book and later developed as paintings: The Fifth Plague of Egypt, which actually depicts the seventh, of hail and fire, shown at the Royal Academy in 1800 (Indianapolis Museum of Art);1 and The Tenth Plague of Egypt, the death of the first–born, exhibited at the same venue in 1802 (Tate N00470).2
Turner never executed a picture of the ‘First Plague’. See also folios 77 verso–78 recto (Tate D05054–D05055; Turner Bequest LXXXI 152–153).
1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.10–11 no.13, pl.10 (colour).
2
Ibid., pp.16–17 no.17, pl.13 (colour).
Technical notes:
There are blue, yellow and pink colour trials at the top edge.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

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