Joseph Mallord William Turner

Woman and Tambourine


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 186 × 257 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXVI B

Catalogue entry

Etching and mezzotint by J.M.W. Turner and Charles Turner, published J.M.W. Turner, ?11 June 1807
Turner’s design, the first to be published in the Liber Studiorum’s ‘EP’ category (likely to indicate ‘Elevated Pastoral’ – see general Liber introduction), has been related to his large oil sketch Trees beside the River, with Bridge in the Middle Distance (Tate N02692).1 This in turn derives closely from two pen and wash drawings in the Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook of 1805 (Tate D05577, D05579; Turner Bequest XC 55, 56). There is a loose correspondence between the right-hand sides of these and the present work. The composition has affinities with several of Richard Earlom’s Liber Veritatis prints after Claude Lorrain (see general Liber introduction) including nos.8 (Landscape with Peasants Crossing a Ford),2 22 (Landscape with River and a Peasant Milking a Goat),3 38 (Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt),4 79 (Pastoral Landscape)5 and 170 (Landscape with Apollo and Mercury)6; and, from an 1802 print in Earlom’s secondary 1802–17 series, no.41.7
In Modern Painters, Ruskin was dismissive of the more Claudian compositions of the Liber: ‘The designs ... are founded first on nature, but in many cases modified by forced imitation of Claude, and fond imitation of Titian. All the worst and feeblest studies in the book ... owe the principal part of their imbecilities to Claude’.8 Stopford Brooke criticised Turner’s combination of ‘material partly supplied by Claude and partly by Nature’ which ‘lacks, therefore, both vitality and unity. ... The road on which the distant figures stand, and the brake on their right, and the trees, are all English, not Italian. They are not classic, and they strike an alien note.’9
Rawlinson appears correct in his interpretation of the subject as ‘the Goddess of Wisdom [and war: Pallas Athene or Athena to the Greeks, Minerva to the Romans] at play with a child (the God of Love? [Eros, or Cupid]) who is dancing to the accompaniment of the tambourine’, noting that when Turner came to etch the design, he added ‘a shield, on which can be plainly seen the Gorgon’s head, and by it the spear and distaff of Pallas ... to emphasize his meaning.’10 Stopford Brooke instead noted that in the print ‘her puissant spear is over-crossed by a thyrsus’,11 a staff tipped with a pine-cone (associated with Dionysus or Bacchus, god of wine), which he had also identified in the Frontispiece of the Liber (see Tate D08150; Vaughan Bequest CXVII V).12 The second seated figure, apparently shown semi-clad in the subsequent print, may be intended as Aphrodite or Venus, with whom Eros/Cupid is usually associated as her son.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.118 no.169, pl.169 (colour); see Forrester 1996, p.48.
Liber Veritatis; or a Collection of Prints after the Original Designs of Claude Le Lorrain ..., London 1777, vol.I, pl.8; from 1636 original drawing by Claude Lorrain (British Museum, London, 1957–12–14–14: Michael Kitson, Claude Lorrain: Liber Veritatis, London 1978, p.56, reproduced pl.8).
Ibid., I, pl.22; Forrester 1996, p.48 no.3iii, reproduced p.49; from 1637–8 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–28: Kitson, p.65, reproduced pl.22).
Ibid., I, pl.38; from 1639 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–44: Kitson, p.[76], reproduced pl.38).
Ibid., I, pl.79; from 1644 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–85: Kitson, p.101, reproduced pl.79).
Ibid., II, pl.170; from 1666 drawing (BM 1957–12–14–176: Kitson, p.158, reproduced pl.170).
Liber Veritatis; or a Collection of Prints after the Original Designs of Claude Le Lorrain ..., London 1819, pl.41; from a drawing then in Earl Spencer’s collection.
Cook and Wedderburn V 1904, p.399.
Brooke 1885, p.10.
Rawlinson 1878, p.12.
Brooke 1885, p.11.
Ibid., p.2.
Forrester 1996, p.49.
Pilikian 2001, p.196.
Brooke 1885, p.11.
[Taylor and Vaughan] 1872, p.18 no.3.
Forrester 1996, pp.160–1 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xliii; Forrester 1996, pp.13–14.
Forrester 1996, p.161 (transcribed).
Finberg 1924, p.xxxii; Forrester 1996, p.12.
Rawlinson 1878, pp.9–19; 1906, pp.12–23; Finberg 1924, pp.5–24.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.302 no.513, pl.515 (colour).
Rawlinson 1878, p.197; 1906, p.[231]; Finberg 1924, p.12.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files, with slide of detail.

Matthew Imms
August 2008

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