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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner ?Study for 'Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus' c.1829

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
?Study for ‘Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus’ c.1829
Turner Bequest CCLXIII 268
Gouache and watercolour on white wove paper, 199 x 270 mm
Blind-stamped with Turner Bequest monogram towards bottom left
Inscribed in red ink ‘268’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXIII – 268’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Without further comment, Finberg labelled this ‘colour beginning’ as ‘On the Lake of Lucerne (?)’ within a section of his 1909 Inventory generically dated to about 1820–30.1 As Gerald Wilkinson has summarised, Turner’s large watercolour Lake Lucerne, from the Landing Place at Fluelen, Looking towards Bauen and Tell’s Chapel, Switzerland, based on 1802 sketches, was exhibited in 1815 (private collection):2 ‘Finberg would be familiar with that drawing. The colour of this sketch, however, is not of 1815. Turner next visited Lucerne in 1841.’ When exhibited at Tate Britain in 2009, the present work was labelled ‘A Promontory on a Lake’, and dated to about 1840,3 preceding Turner’s late annual Swiss visits of 1841–4.
Eric Shanes has proposed a ‘visually tenuous’ link4 with the mythological painting Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus – Homer’s Odyssey, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829 (Turner Bequest, National Gallery, London).5 Turner had been considering the subject since making a wash study in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook of 1805 (Tate D06186; Turner Bequest XCVIII 5), and painted a muted oil sketch a year or two before the exhibited composition (Tate N02958).6 The similarities between the richly coloured final version and this sheet lie in the massing of reddish brown rocks on the left and dark central forms across water against a bright dawn sky, although given the generalised nature of the forms here, this may be fortuitous.
See also Tate D40192, another colour study connected to the painting on the same tentative terms by Shanes;7 as it is on the other side of a sheet from a study more convincingly related to Turner’s Picturesque Views in England and Wales, both are to be found in the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ category of this catalogue.
Finberg 1909, II, p.834.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.342 no.378, pl.99.
In the uncatalogued display Water Colours: From the Source to the Sea, organised by Tate’s Christine Kurpiel and Ian Warrell.
Shanes 1997, p.30; see also pp.98, 100.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.183–5 no.330, pl.331 (colour).
Ibid., p.177 no.302, pl.305 (colour).
See Shanes 1997, pp.30, 98, 100.
Blank; slight vertical pencil strokes bottom left. Inscribed in ?chalk ‘72’ top left, upside down.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘?Study for ‘Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus’ c.1829 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2016, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, February 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-study-for-ulysses-deriding-polyphemus-r1184437, accessed 24 May 2024.