Joseph Mallord William Turner
A Subject from the Runic Superstitions ... exhibited 1808

Artwork details

A Subject from the Runic Superstitions ...
Date Exhibited 1808
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 921 x 1219 mm
frame: 1200 x 1490 x 133 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Not on display

Display caption

The subject of this painting is obscure. It was exhibited, possibly unfinished, in 1808, when it was related to Runic, or Norse traditions. Such myths had frequently been painted by Henry Fuseli, Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy.

Emerging from the gloom, a seated woman raises her arm, as if to conjure up the terrifying apparition on the right. In 1812 Turner published a modified version of the image under the title ‘Rispah’. The name refers to Saul’s concubine, an Old Testament character, who protected the decaying bodies of her sons from nocturnal predators.

February 2010

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