J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Dark Interior or Landscape, with a Naked Couple Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1834-6

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 38 Recto:
A Dark Interior or Landscape, with a Naked Couple Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1834–6
D28840
Turner Bequest CCXCI b 38
Watercolour and pencil on white wove paper, 101 x 77 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘38’ top right, ascending vertically (now faint)
Stamped in black ‘CCXCI(b) – 38’ top right, ascending vertically
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
With the page turned vertically, two naked figures are entwined below a shadowy void, perhaps the interior of a curtained bed as seen on adjacent pages, which to Gerald Wilkinson suggested a connection with the grand bedrooms of Petworth House, Sussex (see the Introduction), albeit in the form of ‘imaginings’.1
Here the unresolved forms might perhaps suggest an outdoor setting of dark trees and a moonlit sky. Ann Chumbley and Ian Warrell have described the couple ‘embracing as Titianesque lovers, the male dark and swarthy to highlight the pale beauty of the female figure’,2 referring to the nudes of the Venetian Old Master Titian (c.1486/90–1576), whom Turner admired and studied.3
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
1
Wilkinson 1975, p.76.
2
Chumbley and Warrell 1989, p.30.
3
See Martin Butlin, ‘Titian’ in Evelyn Joll, Butlin and Luke Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.338.
Verso:
Blank, save for slight offsetting of watercolour to or from folio 39 recto opposite (unaccessioned; the verso is D28841).

Matthew Imms
May 2014

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘A Dark Interior or Landscape, with a Naked Couple Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1834–6 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2014, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, September 2014, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-dark-interior-or-landscape-with-a-naked-couple-engaged-in-r1149065, accessed 02 March 2021.