Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies for ‘Isis’ and ‘Apollo and Python’: a Classical Rotunda by a River, and Two Studies of Apollo with a Bow

1805

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Medium
Pen and ink on paper
Dimensions
Support: 150 x 258 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D05494
Turner Bequest XC 3

Catalogue entry

Finberg did not notice the faint pencil sketch underlying the figure studies, which Hill was the first to observe and identify. With further sketches of the same subject on folios 4, 5, 6, 9, 29 and 31 (D05495, D05496, D05497, D05502, D05531, D05535) this anticipates the composition of Turner’s painting of 1807–10 bought by the Earl of Egremont, known as The Thames at Weybridge (Tate T03872; displayed at Petworth House)1 but engraved as Isis for the Liber Studiorum.
Following early commentators on the Liber, Finberg associated most of the related drawings in this sketchbook, beginning with folio 4 (D05495), with a ‘Temple of Isis’ in Petworth Park, but the Ionic rotunda at Petworth is situated on a hill some way from the lake. Neither the Weybridge nor the Petworth locations are accepted today and this sketchbook indicates a position by the Thames. Some of the drawings incorporate views south-west from Kew, with the Dutch House (now Kew Palace), and the site must have been very close to Turner’s home at Sion (or Syon) Ferry House. Evidently the same rotunda appears in Isleworth, another Liber plate (for the drawing see Tate D08163; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII I). Edward Croft-Murray, in marginal comments in a copy of Finberg in the Tate Library, suggested ‘?Sion boathouse’ and Wilton identifies it as the Alcove, which he describes as the Duke of Northumberland’s waterside shooting lodge. It is likely to be inspired by the Pavilion built for the Duke by Robert Mylne and completed in 1803, its identity obscured in some of Turner’s sketches by his omission of its flanking wings to give it more of the appearance of a classical temple. The wings are shown in the sketch on folio 27 (D05528), viewed from the river at the Isleworth corner of Syon Park. Probably it appears again, with Isleworth church behind it, on folio 53 (D05574). For further discussion see notes to the drawing for Isis (Tate D08168; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N).
The two figure studies are drawn over the pencil sketch. As Finberg recognised, they are for Apollo in Apollo and Python, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 but possibly painted earlier (Tate N00488).2
1
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.126 no.204 (pl.201).
2
Ibid., p.82 no.115 (pl.119).

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

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