Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Temple of Aphaia at Aegina (‘The Temple of Jupiter in the Island of Aegina’)


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 197 x 294 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Turner Bequest CXVIII S

Display caption

Known to Turner as the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius, the great Doric temple at Aegina is now recognised as dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia. It was excavated by an Anglo-German team, including the architect C.R. Cockerell, in 1811. Turner was given a drawing of it by Byron's schoolfriend and fellow-student, Henry Gally Knight, and used it as the basis of paintings and drawings including this unused design for his compendium of landscape types, the 'Liber Studiorum'.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Bought from Henry Dawe by Charles Stokes by 1848, 15 guineas
Bequeathed by Stokes to Hannah Cooper, 1853
Exchanged either 12 December 1856 or February 1857 via Thomas Griffith
Henry Vaughan by 1862 (see main catalogue entry)
(variant engraved: see main catalogue entry)
At the 1816 Royal Academy exhibition, Turner exhibited two large paintings, The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius Restored1 and View of the Temple of Jupiter Panellenius, in the Island of Ægina, with the Greek National Dance of the Romaika: the Acropolis of Athens in the Distance. Painted from a sketch taken by H. Gally Knight, Esq. in 1810 (both in private collections).2 The first was a reconstruction of the temple and its setting in its prime at dawn, with a wedding procession in the foreground; the second a modern view with the temple, in ruins at sunset, a fundamentally pessimistic image,3 as engraved (though not published), for the Liber Studiorum. By 1816 Greece was still under the longstanding rule of the Ottoman Empire and did not attain independence until 1829 after several years of war; although he never travelled there, Turner’s general sympathy for the cause of Greece (championed most prominently by Lord Byron, whose works Turner illustrated) and interest in Greek culture – as distinct from general Classical themes mediated through Roman sources – has been clearly established.4
The island of Aegina (or Aíyina) lies roughly twenty miles to the south-west of Athens. Traditionally, following the identification in Turner’s time, the Liber composition has been said to show the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius (Zeus Hellanios) but the Doric building is now identified as being dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia.5 As with his later Biblical watercolours, Turner is here reliant on someone who had actually visited the site; the title of the exhibited painting indicates that he used a sketch by its possible first owner, the antiquarian and poet Henry Gally Knight of Langold Hall, Nottinghamshire.6 Knight knew Byron, and travelled in Greece in 1810–11, when the temple was the subject of an Anglo-German excavation.7 Turner later produced an unrelated watercolour of the temple in ruins for the architect C.R. Cockerell, based on the latter’s drawings from the 1811 expedition (private collection).8
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.97–8 no.133 pl.138 (colour).
Ibid., pp.98–100 no.134 pl.139 (colour).
Gage 1981, p.16.
Ibid., pp.[14]–25.
Ibid., p.18.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.98–9.
Gage 1981, pp.16, 18; Brown 1992, pp.87, 88.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.356 no.493, reproduced.
Sotheby’s (pace Forrester 1996), London, 15 July 1964 (43, reproduced); Forrester 1996, p.141, as ‘Private Collection’.
Forrester 1996, p.141 and note 10.
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.160 (transcribed).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, pp.144–69; ... Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, pp.169–96; Finberg 1924, pp.287–365.
Hardie 1938, pp.57–8 no.22, reproduced p.[93] pl.VII A.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.68, reproduced.
Ibid., p.74.
Forrester 1996, p.141; ‘Cooper Notebooks’, circa 1853–8, vol.II, p.6 no.2 or 3 in Krause 1997, p.267, the uncertainty owing to Cooper’s not distinguishing between the two versions.
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

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