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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Figures Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1830

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 2 Verso:
?Figures Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1830
Turner Bequest CCXL 2a
Pencil on white wove paper, 68 x 110 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘l’ bottom left, ascending vertically
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘2’ bottom left, ascending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
There is a drawing of a nude woman on folio 1 verso (D22324), under which other figure studies in this sketchbook are noted, but the sketch here is altogether less legible. It may show a couple engaged in sexual activity, with only the immediate focus of interest drawn in any detail; compare the similar approach in a slight but unambiguous erotic subject in the Finance sketchbook (Tate D08342; Turner Bequest CXXII 37).
Whether Finberg discerned a subject or not, he called this a ‘Slight sketch’, and it has not been discussed by Ian Warrell among other figure studies in this sketchbook.1
See Ian Warrell, ‘Exploring the “Dark Side”: Ruskin and the Problem of Turner’s Erotica’, with ‘A Checklist of Erotic Sketches in the Turner Bequest’, British Art Journal, vol.4, no.1, Spring 2003, p.23.
Technical notes:
Turner wrote ‘Wroxall’ at the bottom right of the recto (D22325), but the corner was creased diagonally at the time with a small triangular portion of the present page thus overlapping the recto, and the last ‘l’ strayed across the edge. Ruskin’s customary red ink number was also written while the corner was folded. The leaf was straightened out before the Turner Bequest number was stamped in the usual place at the bottom right of the recto, leaving Turner’s ‘l’ and Ruskin’s ‘2’ isolated at the bottom left here.

Matthew Imms
August 2013

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?Figures Engaged in Sexual Activity c.1830 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2013, 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-figures-engaged-in-sexual-activity-r1148476, accessed 26 January 2022.