Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Dido Directing the Equipment of the Fleet’


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk and pen and ink on paper
Support: 140 x 191 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLX 10

Catalogue entry

Along with three technically similar blue paper drawings (Tate D20818, D24843, D24844; Turner Bequest CCXXVII a 15, CCLX 7, 8) this is a preliminary study for Turner’s large painting Dido Directing the Equipment of the Fleet, or The Morning of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1828 (Tate N00506).1 While Finberg had recognised the subject of D20818,2 the remaining three, possibly sight unseen, had been grouped with blue paper subjects ‘mostly connected with “French River” series’,3 having been displayed in that context as such in the nineteenth century, and the specific identification of the present work was only published in 2002.4
Finberg listed D20818 along with drawings in ink and chalk on blue paper showing East Cowes Castle on the Isle of White, where Turner stayed with John Nash in the late summer of 1827, and Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll have suggested that drawing was made there,5 which seems likely to be the case with all four. The turrets shown here to the left of the tree has more of the air of Nash’s mock-medieval ‘castle’6 than the elaborate classical architecture of the 1828 painting; the effect is similar in D20818, another relatively simple drawing among the four variations.
For general comments on the subject and Andrew Wilton’s remarks on the four drawings as related to Turner’s own early drawings and his ‘Old Master’ models,7 see the Introduction to this subsection.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.149–50 no.241, pl.243.
See Finberg 1909, II, p.700.
Ibid., p.806.
Warrell 2002, p.195; he had previously captioned the sheet as such in Tate Britain’s Pure as Italian Air exhibition in 2000.
See Butlin and Joll 1984, p.149, and Butlin 2001, p.43.
See also Warrell 2002, p.195.
Wilton 2006, p.79.
Technical notes:
The white chalk sky is quite densely worked, leaving ‘reserved’ darker to stand by contras as the silhouettes of undrawn buildings.
Blank; inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘497’ bottom left.

Matthew Imms
July 2016

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