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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Virgin and Child, after Guercino 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 37 Recto:
The Virgin and Child, after Guercino 1802
Turner Bequest LXXII 37
Pencil, watercolour and some scratching out, on white wove paper prepared with a reddish brown wash, 128 x 114 mm
Inscribed by Turner in black ink, ascending vertically at right of image (see main catalogue entry)
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘37’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘LXXII–37’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This has been among the most tantalising of Turner’s copies in this sketchbook. It has often been supposed to record a work by Titian, but no such source was found. In fact it is after a picture by Guercino, signed and dated 1629, taken by the French from the Capuchin church in Cento in 1796 and returned in 1816 (Pinacoteca Civica, Cento). For Turner’s comments on the subject and character of the figures, which he found unconvincing, see folio 36 verso of this sketchbook (D04321). These specifically mention the Christ child’s inclination of the head, and hand raised in a gesture of blessing, which are distinctive features of the picture though in the drawing the head is set straighter. It is interesting that these notes follow on without any differentiation of the artist from remarks on the Mars and Venus also by Guercino, which however Turner believed to be by Domenichino. To complicate matters further, the Virgin and Child may then still have retained the attribution to ‘Ercole Gennari’ made – despite its signature and date – by J.-B.-P. Le Brun in 1798. The further notes on the picture alongside the drawing are purely descriptive (and entirely correct): ‘red under-drapery at the wrists, and near the leg in Shadow | The upper drapery Blue over the ground though it is dark and green | and the neck and Head is Pale Yellow’. Turner’s copy is now faded and does not do justice to these colours. There are colour trials of blue wash at the right of the image.
For Turner’s copy of Guercino’s Mars and Venus see folio 35 (D04319), and of The Raising of Lazarus, folio 53 (D04342).

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘The Virgin and Child, after Guercino 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-the-virgin-and-child-after-guercino-r1129731, accessed 15 May 2021.