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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner A Kneeling Figure c.1799-1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 36 Recto:
A Kneeling Figure c.1799–1805
Turner Bequest LXXXI 69
Black and white chalks on blue laid paper, 271 x 436 mm
Watermarks ‘1794’ and Strasburg lily
Stamped in black ‘LXXXI–69’ top right, ascending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Finberg suggests that this study, made with the page turned horizontally, may be for the god Apollo, and connected with the drawing on the folio 35 verso opposite (Tate D04970; Turner Bequest LXXXI 68), which is an early idea for the large painting Apollo and Python that appeared at the Royal Academy in 1811 (Tate N00488).1 He describes the subject as ‘Figure of a man among clouds’,2 but this is a misunderstanding: the cloud–like forms are simply an off–set from the opposite page.
Nevertheless, it may be that Turner at first conceived his Apollo as shooting his arrow from a cloud, and the position of the figure in relation to the drawing opposite supports that idea. If so, he may have been thinking of the famous 1760 painting by Richard Wilson (1713–1782), The Destruction of the Children of Niobe (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven), published in a hugely successful engraving by William Woollett in 1761 which Turner, an admirer of Wilson, knew well. In this, Apollo and Diana visit vengeance on the over–proud Niobe by killing her children one by one.3 Apollo appears on a cloud at the left of that composition (or to the right in the reversed print).
For another possible reminiscence of the Niobe see folio 16 recto (D04932; Turner Bequest LXXXI 31). In the painting as Turner finally resolved it, Apollo appears in the left foreground, kneeling by the edge of the water.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.82 no.115, pl.119.
Finberg 1909, I, p.216.
See David Solkin, Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1982, pp. 200–1.
Technical notes:
There is black and white chalk offset from folio 35 verso opposite (D04970; Turner Bequest LXXXI 68).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘A Kneeling Figure 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-kneeling-figure-r1178175, accessed 03 December 2021.