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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?A Staircase, with a Stooping Woman and Another Figure c.1834-6

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 3 Recto:
?A Staircase, with a Stooping Woman and Another Figure c.1834–6
Turner Bequest CCXCI b 3
Watercolour and chalk on white wove paper, 77 x 101 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘3’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCXCI(b) – 3’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Much of this conglomeration of loose wash strokes remains effectively indefinable, but there is a sense of a darkened interior with a bright through the arch or window on the right. Raphael Rosenberg sees the composition as having been developed out of fortuitous irregularities in the original washes.1 To the left of this a diagonal succession of parallel horizontal stem suggests stairs. There is certainly a woman to the left of centre, with the top of her head and her breasts outlined in reddish chalk, and a few lighter strokes indicating her arm and lower body; she appears to stoop forward, looking to her right. Whether the agglomeration of dots in the area of her face suggestive of her features is deliberate or fortuitous is unclear; the same goes for the diagonal lozenge shape to her right and various associated strokes, which perhaps suggest another figure in motion on the stairs. The effect is of some sort of illicit encounter.
For a discussion of the improvisatory and often erotic nature of the watercolour studies making up most of this sketchbook, see the Introduction.
See Rosenberg 2007, pp.327–8 note 51.
Blank, save for offsetting and adventitious watercolour in the gutter associated with folio 4 recto opposite (D28794).

Matthew Imms
May 2014

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?A Staircase, with a Stooping Woman and Another Figure 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-staircase-with-a-stooping-woman-and-another-figure-r1149023, accessed 23 January 2022.