William Etty

Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm

1830–2, exhibited 1832

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1587 x 1175 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Robert Vernon 1847
Reference
N00356

Display caption

Thomas Gray’s poem The Bard, published in 1757, fascinated many of the Romantic generation. Etty’s picture illustrates the linesIn gallant trim, the gilded vessel goes,Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm,Unmindful of the sweeping whirlwind’s sway.Etty was renowned for his sensual depiction of the nude. He shows youth snatching at the ‘bubbles of pleasure’ until woken from its indulgence by ‘the whirlwind of distress’. He described the work as an ‘allegory of human life’.

Gallery label, May 2007