Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 117 × 182 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XCVIII 1

Catalogue entry

This very slight outline sketch is one of two in this sketchbook illustrating the Aeneid; see Introduction to the sketchbook and folios 1 verso–2 (D06181–D06182). The story of Aeneas’s son Ascanius is told in Book 7, 483–99. In Virgil’s version, which is only one of various narratives,1 Ascanius was the son of Aeneas by the Trojan, Creusa. After the fall of Troy, father and son escape to Italy where Ascanius provokes a war between the Trojans and the Latins by wounding a pet stag belonging to Silvia, the daughter of the royal herdsman.
In Tuner’s sketch Ascanius, with another figure, is seen at centre, drawing a bow to shoot the stag, visible at right. The setting of a classical landscape near the coast, with architecture, is reminiscent of Claude Lorrain, both of his last painting, Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and the earlier Coast of Libya with Aeneas Hunting (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels). Noting these similarities, Nicholson observes that the subject ‘provided exactly the kind of irony-laden moment set out-of-doors in a wooded landscape that Turner preferred’, but that he did not pursue it further than this sketch.2

David Blayney Brown
July 2008

For Virgil’s and other versions see Sergio Casali, ‘The development of the Aeneas Legend’, in Joseph Farrell and Michael C.J. Putnam eds., A Companion to Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’ and its Tradition, Chichester 2010, pp.48–9.
Nicholson 1990, pp.276–7.

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