The present watercolour, remarkable for its excellent condition, is one of twenty-six watercolours (Wilton, op. cit., nos. 1236-61) commissioned from Turner by the engravers Edward and William Finden together with the publisher John Murray for Landscape Illustrations to the Bible, published between 1833 and 1836, and subsequently in The Bible Keepsake, or Landscape Illustrations of the Most Remarkable Places mentioned in the Holy Scriptures... with Descriptions of the Places by the Rev. Thomas Hartwell Hoare, B.D., published in two volumes (1835-6). Other artists employed for the scheme included Clarkson Stanfield, J.D. Harding and Sir Augustus Wall Callcott. Turner’s watercolours were based on views made by various travellers to the Holy Land, first making an outline tracing from his sources, in this case a drawing by Sir Charles Barry now in the collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, London. The view of Ninevah, sold in these Rooms, 18 June 1998, lot 43 (fig. 1) was based on a drawing by Claudius James Rich whose Narrative of a Residence in Koordistan and on the site of Ancient Ninevah was published in 1836 .
The Valley of the Brook opens up between the old city of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives within the Kidron Valley. On the left is Absalom, a monument believed to have been set up by a rebel prince whose name it bears: 'Now Absalom, in his lifetime had reared up a pillar, which is in the King’s Dale: for he said, 'I have a son to keep my name in remembrance; And he called the pillar after his own name; and it is called unto this day 'Absalom’s Place’’ (II Samuel, ch. XVIII, v. 18).
Hewn out of the living rock, its lower portions are quadrangular, all four sides faced with Ionic columns and pilasters; the top is a tapering cone, and there is also some evidence of some Egyptian influence. In the lower right hand corner is the actual brook of Kidron, it is only filled with rainwater so appears only during the winter months. Rising majestically above the brook is the steep limestone escarpment of Mount Moriah and a corner of the eastern wall of Jerusalem. In the background are the faint outlines of the storeyed Siloam village, and further in the distance rise the remote hills of the Judean desert. In the foreground a herd of goats is resting or grazing, while an Arab sleeps by the tomb.
According to John Ruskin, Turner’s drawings for Finden’s Bible were quite 'unrivalled examples of his richest executive powers on a small scale’ (ed. E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, Works of John Ruskin, XVIII, London, 1903-12, p. 447).
We are grateful to Martin Butlin for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.
The Valley of the Brook at Kidron, Jerusalem (Absalom's Tomb)
Pencil and watercolour with scratching out
THE PROPERTY OF A LADY
Joseph Mallord William Turner
W. Radcliffe, 1836, Landscape Illustrations of the Bible, 1835-6 (R.592).
Joseph Mallord William Turner , mid 19th Century, late 18th Century, Drawings & Watercolors, pencil, watercolor, England, landscape
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Turner and the Bible, 1979, no. IX.
Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours
5 ¾ x 8 1/8 in. (14.5 x 20.6 cm.)
W. Thornbury, The Life of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London, 1876, pp. 559, 619.
Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, London, 1902, p. 259.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Works of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London, vol. II, 1913, p. 310, under no. 592.
M. Omer in exhibition catalogue Turner and the Bible, Jerusalem, 1979, p. 19, no. IX, and p. 30, under no. 21.
A. Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg and London, 1979, p. 450, no. 1256.
John Morley of Clapton; Christie's, London, 16 May 1896, lot 56 (185 gns to Agnew's).
with Agnew's, London, 1956.
Mark Fletcher; Sotheby's, London, 30 November 1960, lot 56 (£800 to Agnew's).
with Agnew's, where purchased by the father of the present owner.