Joseph Mallord William Turner

Windsor from the North-East and Other Scenes Nearby; and Verses (Inscription by Turner)


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 155 x 95 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXL 4

Catalogue entry

For Windsor Castle in this sketchbook and a connection with Turner’s watercolour (British Museum, London)1 engraved by William Miller in 1831 for Picturesque Views in England and Wales, see note to folio 9 verso (D10427).
Turner’s verse is hard to read and only the first and last lines were transcribed by Finberg. The reading here is tentative and incomplete:
Perfidious Rome, the Myrtle proffers still
But round its branch [insidious inserted] entwined the asp
...and tho not conquered yet, thy strength remain
When asking he sigh for peace
And for it did the crafty sentence ask
And prey when concessing age demands up gave
Thy arms, and all thy children. Then
The doting mother clasps her only hope
And in feeling conflict struggling prest
In turmoil wild her offspring to her breast
In doubtful air yields thy last strength
While she insidious smiled
For yet she smiled
Tho the declining sun of Carthage daily set
Ensanguined as she fell
With other verse in this sketchbook, this passage is a draft of Turner’s epigraph for his picture The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire (Tate N00499)2 in the Royal Academy catalogue for the exhibition of 1817. It gives the historical background to the subject, which he added to the title of the picture:
...Rome being determined on the Overthrow of her Hated Rival, demanded from her such Terms as might either force her into War, or ruin her by Compliance: the Enervated Carthaginians, in their Anxiety for Peace, consented to give up their Arms and their Children.
The verse published in the Academy catalogue was thus shorter:
****** At Hope’s delusive smile,
The chieftain’s safety and the mother’s pride,
Were to th’insidious conqu’ror’s grasp resign’d;
While o’er the western wave th’ensanguin’d sun,
In gathering haze a stormy signal spread,
And set portentous.
Turner refers to the harsh peace terms forced on Carthage by Rome at the end of the Third Punic War. As Kathleen Nicholson has observed,3 Turner’s title is an ‘accurate synopsis’ of the long account by Oliver Goldsmith in his History of Rome (1786) of which Turner owned a copy4 while he restricted the imagery of the picture to the last and most tragic events described, the handover of Carthaginian children and arms. Nicholson remarks how Turner’s verses generally overlook the Carthaginians’ past aggression and culpability, concentrating instead on their victimhood.5

David Blayney Brown
July 2011

Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.397 no.829.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed. 1984, pp.100–1 no.135 (pl.137).
Kathleen Nicholson, Turner’s Classical Landscapes: Myth and Meaning, Princeton 1990, pp.105, 137 note 36.
For Turner’s library see Andrew Wilton, Turner in his Time, London 1987, pp.246–7.
Nicholson 1990, p.110.

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