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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Studies of Hesperie for the 'Liber Studiorum'; a Diagram of Pulleys c.1817-19

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Inside Front Cover:
Studies of Hesperie for the ‘Liber Studiorum’; a Diagram of Pulleys c.1817–19
Pen and ink and pencil on white wove paper, 87 x 119 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘83’ below centre, upside down, and ‘45 | 11 | 495’ centre left, ascending vertically
Inscribed by later hands in ink and pencil (see main catalogue entry)
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram centre left
Inscribed in pencil ‘CLXIX’ top left
Stamped in black ‘CLXIX’ top left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
To the right are two ink studies of a seated woman with her arms raised to dress her hair. In one her head is turned away to show the profile of her cheek; her legs and feet, in rough pencil outline, appear disproportionately large. In the more developed of the sketches she is shown nude, except for perfunctory indications of drapery over her crossed legs, and her head is turned at an extreme angle so that its back is presented, although her body is seen from the left front quarter.
This figure was incorporated into the design for the Liber Studiorum print of Aesacus and Hesperie, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Turner’s only known treatment of the episode, where Aesacus sees Hesperie drying her hair by a river in a woodland setting. No freehand study for the whole composition is known, but there is an impression of Turner’s etched outline, with the tones indicated in watercolour (Tate D08166; Turner Bequest CXVIII L). The published etching and mezzotint engraving bears the date 1 January 1819 and the title ‘Æsacus and Hesperie | Vide Ovid Mets. Book XI.’ Tate holds impressions of the preliminary outline etching (Tate A01138) and the first state of the engraving (A01139).
The present studies differ from the Liber etching and first published state, where Hesperie’s face is shown as she looks to her left towards Aesacus in the right foreground, suggesting that she is about to catch sight of him. From the second state onwards (not represented in the Tate Collection),1 her face is turned away, and she wrings her long, loose hair in a more natural gesture than shown here, implying her head is turned only a little. It is unclear whether the present studies precede or follow the first state, presumably printed before 1819 if the lettered date of publication is accurate. In any case, the earliest date that can be assigned is 1817 or 1818, owing to the 1817 watermark on other pages as noted by Finberg.2 The figures’ significance was recognised by John Ruskin, who endorsed the sketchbook with a note on its wrapper (now presumed lost): ‘Study for figure in Æsacus and Hesperie’ and ‘Study for figure for Æsacus and Hesperie. Otherwise valueless’.3
To the left of the figures is a sketchy diagram of the pulleys of a block and tackle, with a cursory indication of something attached. Turner’s executors’ endorsement, with the book’s original schedule number, is inscribed and signed in ink at the top left by Henry Scott Trimmer, running over the diagram: ‘No 257 – | Containing 16 | Leaves – | Pencil Sketches | H.S. Trimmer’. Immediately below is the ink signature of Charles Turner, ‘CTurner’, partially obscuring Turner’s pencil multiplication; Charles Lock Eastlake and Henry Scott Trimmer have added their initials in pencil ‘C.L.E. | JPK’ to the right of Trimmer’s note.
But see for example Bury Art Gallery’s impression, reproduced in Gillian Forrester, David Hill, Matthew Imms and others, Reisen mit William Turner: J.M.W. Turner: Das Liber Studiorum, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Stihl, Waiblingen 2008, p.171 (colour).
Forrester 1996, p.128.
As transcribed in Finberg 1909, I, p.488.
Technical notes:
The surface is a little rubbed towards the outer edge, and there is staining at the corners and the head and foot of the gutter from the leather overlaps.

Matthew Imms
July 2011

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘Studies of Hesperie for the ‘Liber Studiorum’; a Diagram of Pulleys c.1817–19 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2011, 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-studies-of-hesperie-for-the-liber-studiorum-a-diagram-of-r1147473, accessed 22 January 2020.