Here, Turner found his mythic subject outside classical sources. ‘Queen Mab’ is described in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as ‘the fairies’ midwife’. She reveals secret hopes in the form of dreams, which she creates by driving her chariot over people as they sleep. Turner referred to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Queen Mab is invoked during Titania’s ‘moonlight revels’. He may also have read Shelley’s poem Queen Mab.
This painting was first exhibited in 1846. A reviewer called it ‘a daylight dream in all the wantonness of gorgeous, bright, and positive colour, not painted but apparently flung upon the canvas’.
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Joseph Mallord William Turner (41,861)
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