Joseph Mallord William Turner Apollo and Python exhibited 1811

Share this artwork

Artwork details

Title
Apollo and Python
Date Exhibited 1811
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1454 x 2375 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
N00488

Display caption

When he first exhibited this painting Turner appended lines adapted from the Hymn to Apollo by the Greek poet, Callimacchus. That text recounted the sun god Apollo’s quest to build a temple for his oracle at Delphi, which first necessitated that he overcome the giant dragon, Python, which lived nearby.

Turner interprets Apollo’s slaughter of the creature as a conquest of good over evil. He shows it, in pictorial terms, as the triumph of light over darkness. However, he also includes a smaller snake emerging from the dragon’s wound, perhaps hinting at the inescapable cyclical regeneration of brutal natural forces.

February 2010

About this artwork