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Oil painting - The Village Turner
  • The Village Turner
    Hornung, Joseph, born 1792 - died 1870
  • Enlarge image

The Village Turner

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Geneva (painted)

  • Date:

    1850s (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hornung, Joseph, born 1792 - died 1870 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Rev., Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Joseph Hornung (1792-1870) was born in Geneva. He took drawing lessons with Constant Vaucher but was essentially self-taught in the French Romantic tradition. He was considered the leader of the Geneva school and the most representative painter of the Reformation. He exhibited at the Salon in the Musée Rath, Geneva, as early as 1826 and subsequently at the Royal Academy, London (1839) and the Paris Salon (1831, 1840, 1841, 1843 and 1847). He was praised by the critics and Louis-Philippe and Ary Scheffer were among his admirers.

This painting is a good example of Hornung's genre scenes. It shows the interior shop of a turner with his two young children playing on the ground with flowers. This pleasant scene is reminiscent of the Biedermeier imagery, ideologically opposed to academic and religious painting and which favoured such subject matter as portraits, landscapes and genre scenes.

Physical description

Interior of a workshop with in front of a window wide open, a man is chiselling a piece of wood on a workbench; two young children play with flowers on the ground.

Place of Origin

Geneva (painted)


1850s (painted)


Hornung, Joseph, born 1792 - died 1870 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on panel

Marks and inscriptions

'J. Hornung'
Signed by the artist, lower right


Height: 28 cm estimate, Width: 21.6 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by Rev. Chauncey Hare Townshend, 1868

Historical significance: This painting is an interesting work drawing from the Romantic tradition and the Biedermeier imagery especially vivid in Germanic Europe. The humble subject matter is typical of 19th-century Western art, which developed a new interest in rustic subject matter under the revival of the Dutch 17th-century genre pieces. Here the subject may also allude to the Reformation ideology, in which Hornung seems to have been particularly interested. He produced indeed several works showing subjects from the history of the Reformation. See Calvin's farewell and Luther at the Worms graveyard, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva.
His genre scenes were often inspired by the rustic life in Savoy (Alps) in compositions such as the present one of spatial arrangement quite similar to Interior with an old woman and children, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva.

Historical context note

The term 'Biedermeier' refers to bourgeois life and art in Germanic Europe, an extensive area embracing such cities as Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna and Prague, from 1815 (the Congress of Vienna) to the revolutions of 1848. Biedermeier painters were ideologically opposed to academic and religious painting and favoured such subject matter as portraits, landscapes and genre scenes, with still-lifes, especially of flowers. They share a similar technique in the use of separate, clear tones and a high degree of finish, reminiscent of Neo-Classicism while they tend to convey a greater sentimentality. By the 1880s, the influence of this artistic movement was on the wane and was even used pejoratively to characterize the reactionary bourgeois elements in society, which remained quite indifferent to social problems and cultivated a sense of order and sobriety, especially in the private sphere and the domestic realm.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'The Village Turner', Joseph Hornung, Swiss school, 1850s

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M., Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, II. 1800-1900, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, p. 50, cat. no. 109.


Oil paint; Panel


Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Chisel; Man; Workbench; Window; Flowers; Genre scene; Children




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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