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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Group of Falling Naked Figures c.1799-1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 83 Recto:
A Group of Falling Naked Figures c.1799–1805
Turner Bequest LXXXI 163
Pencil and grey wash on blue laid paper, 271 x 436 mm
Watermarks ‘1794’ and Strasburg lily
Inscribed in red ink by John Ruskin ‘163’ bottom left, descending vertically
Stamped in black ‘LXXXI–163’ bottom left, descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Jerrold Ziff has proposed that the drawing, made with the page turned horizontally, is related to the lost painting of the Army of the Medes Destroyed in the Desart by a Whirlwind.1 Another group of tangled figures is on folio 84 recto (D05067; Turner Bequest LXXXI 165), and is inscribed by Turner ‘Whirlwind’. This is an indication of the type of figure subject he had in mind, though both drawings are very different from the study in the Dynevor Castle sketchbook (Tate D01566–D01567; Turner Bequest XL 60a–61), with its emphasis on the cloud of dust raised by the whirlwind, a feature of the exhibited picture commented on by contemporary critics, as Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll note.2
Finberg suggested that this drawing is related to Turner’s plans for a ‘Deluge’ subject;3 Butlin and Joll disagree.4 In fact, D05067 has more elements suggestive of ‘Deluge’ subject matter.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.13–15 no.15; see Ziff 1964, p.330.
See Butlin and Joll 1984, p.14.
See Finberg 1909, I, p.218.
See Butlin and Joll 1984, p.44.

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘A Group of Falling Naked Figures c.1799–1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2013, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, April 2016, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-a-group-of-falling-naked-figures-r1178269, accessed 22 January 2021.