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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner St John the Baptist Preaching, after Pier Francesco Mola 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 18 Recto:
St John the Baptist Preaching, after Pier Francesco Mola 1802
Turner Bequest LXXII 18
Pencil, with some scratching out, on white wove paper prepared with a grey wash, 128 x 114 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘18’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘LXXII–18’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The St John the Baptist is a late work by Mola (Pier Francesco Mola 1612–66). It depicts the saint preaching in the wilderness of Judea. Turner’s interest is likely to have been prompted by his knowledge of another version of this subject by the artist, on landscape format, bought from the Orléans collection by the Duke of Bridgewater in 1798/9 (Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, Madrid). He made three other copies after pictures by Mola in the Louvre. One of Mola’s Vision of St Bruno, drawn in his France, Savoy, Piedmont sketchbook (Tate D04394; Turner Bequest LXXIII 2), may have been the first copy he made in the museum. The other drawings, in the present sketchbook, are of Erminia and Valfrino Tending the Wounded Tancred (folio 79, D04378) and Erminia, Watching her Flock, Carving Tancred’s Name on a Tree (folio 80, D04379). During one of his own visits to the gallery Joseph Farington noted that the connoisseur Charles Long was ‘delighted with some small pictures by Mola’.1 Turner praised Mola’s ‘Historical Landscapes’ in a later lecture.2
Kenneth Garlick and Angus Macintyre eds., The Diary of Joseph Farington, vol.V, New Haven and London 1979, p.1819 (1 September 1802).
Quoted by Jerrold Ziff, ‘Turner and Poussin’, The Burlington Magazine, vol.105, 1963, pp.320, note 36.

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘St John the Baptist Preaching, after Pier Francesco Mola 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2005, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-st-john-the-baptist-preaching-after-pier-francesco-mola-r1129701, accessed 20 May 2024.