J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Chryses 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 3 Verso:
Chryses 1805
Turner Bequest XCVIII 3a
Pencil on white laid paper, 117 x 182 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
For the story of the Trojan priest Chryses, told in Book 1 of Homer’s Iliad, see catalogue notes to early versions of this composition in the contemporary Studies for Pictures: Isleworth sketchbook (Tate D05588, D05597; Turner Bequest XC 61a, 69) and another leaf in the same book (Tate D05541; Turner Bequest XC 34). Also in the book are notes citing other moments in the story of the priest and his daughter Chryseis.
Here, Turner has elaborated his initial ideas in pencil. The priest stands on the shore, invoking the sun-god Apollo to punish the Greeks, who have captured his daughter, and aid her return. On folio 4 (D06185) he repeats the composition more broadly in ink and wash, a little of which has passed across the gutter of the book onto the present drawing. A further, similar version of the subject is on folio 5 verso (D06187). As Hill observes, this last is closest to the watercolour Chryses (private collection),1 exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811 with lines from Turner’s immediate source, Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad. In this passage, Pope describes the priest walking the shore as seen in the earlier studies – ‘Silent he wander’d by the sounding main’ – and praying to the god as Turner shows him, kneeling, in the exhibited watercolour.
Wilton remarks that the composition studies in this sketchbook, by creating a ‘framework for the action of pure light’, anticipate the ‘all-pervasive warmth and brilliance of Mediterranean light’ that Turner achieved in the watercolour where it suggests the presence of Apollo. Wilton links this treatment of natural phenomena as co-protagonists in the story with Turner’s ideas on Ulysses and Polyphemus, set out in a study on folio 5 (D06186).2

David Blayney Brown
July 2008

Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, p.356 no.492.
Wilton and Mallord Turner 1990, p.125.

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Chryses 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-chryses-r1130367, accessed 28 May 2018.