Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tornaro, for Rogers’s ‘Poems’

c.1830–2

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
None
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27689
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 172

Display caption

Turner’s watercolour for Tornaro was sensitively translated into black lines and engraved on steel by Robert Wallis. The engraving accompanied the following lines:

‘The shepherd on Tornaro’s misty brow,
And the swart seamen, sailing far below,
Not undelighted watch the morning ray
Purpling the orient - till it breaks away,
And burns and blazes into glorious day!’

John Ruskin described the prints in Rogers’s Poems as ‘the loveliest engravings ever produced by the pure line’.

Gallery label, July 2008

Catalogue entry

This vignette, Tornaro, was published in the 1834 edition of Rogers’s Poems, as an illustration to a poem entitled ‘Human Life’.1 The engraver was Robert Wallis.2 The image appears beneath the following lines in Rogers’s poem:
The shepherd on Tornaro’s misty brow,
And the swart seaman, sailing far below,
Not undelighted watch the morning ray
Purpling the orient – till it breaks away,
And burns and blazes into glorious day!
(Poems, p.80)
Tornaro is unusual among the designs for Poems due to its large size and highly finished execution. The landscape is almost certainly an imaginary one, although Ruskin observed that ‘in the colour of the sea and boldness of precipice, [it] resembles only the scenery of the Sicilian islands’.3 The contrast between the small shepherd seated at the edge of the vertiginous cliff highlights the sublime qualities of this scene. The jewel-like palette, brilliant light effects, and delicate brushwork make this one of Turner’s most striking and evocative vignettes.
Several watercolour studies for vignettes have been linked with this work in the past (see Tate D27606, D27603 and D27619; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 86, 89 and 102). However, the relationship is not confirmed.
1
Samuel Rogers, Poems, London 1834, p.80.
2
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.381. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T06164 and T06644).
3
Quoted in Townsend, Wilton, Brown and others 1998, p.128.
Verso:
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘16’ top centre and ‘17’ (encircled) centre and ‘CCLXXX 172’ bottom centre
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 172’ lower centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry