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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Academy Study of a Kneeling Male Nude Holding a Sword and Gigantic Decapitated Head 1798

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 26 Verso:
Academy Study of a Kneeling Male Nude Holding a Sword and Gigantic Decapitated Head 1798
D01504
Turner Bequest XL 24a
Pencil on white wove paper, 135 x 95 mm
Inscribed in red ink ‘69’ top left, upside down
Stamped in black ‘XL – 24 a’ bottom left
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This study is continued on folio 27 recto opposite (D01505; Turner Bequest XL 25). It has the appearance of a drawing made in the Life Class of the Royal Academy, which Turner attended sporadically throughout the 1790s (see the ‘Royal Academy c.1789–1799’ section of this catalogue). The gigantic head was presumably added from the imagination. The drawing relates to another on folios 28 verso–29 recto (D01508–D01509; Turner Bequest XL 26a–27), which shows what is apparently the same model in the same pose, from the opposite viewpoint, without the head or sword, and without the platform and column that form a setting here.
The ostensible ‘subject’ of this pose is presumably David with the head of Goliath, but it is possible that Turner had other ideas in mind, and that there is a connection with the studies of men in armour scrambling over rocks that also figure in this book; see folios 6 verso–7 recto and 13 recto (D01472–D01473, D01484).

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

How to cite

Andrew Wilton, ‘Academy Study of a Kneeling Male Nude Holding a Sword and Gigantic Decapitated Head 1798 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 2015, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-academy-study-of-a-kneeling-male-nude-holding-a-sword-and-r1173743, accessed 21 January 2022.