attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner

Diana and Callisto (after Wilson)


Not on display

Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 565 × 914 mm
frame: 725 × 1070 × 85 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

Turner’s earliest history paintings followed the example of the Welsh artist Richard Wilson (1713-82). This picture is loosely based on an engraving of one of Wilson’s views of Lake Nemi in the collection of Turner’s patron, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, at Stourhead in Wiltshire.

Located south-east of Rome, Lake Nemi occupies a volcanic crater and was known as the mirror of Diana. This standard association led Wilson (and subsequently Turner) to add an incident from the myth of Diana to the foreground. Here she has just discovered the pregnancy of Callisto, one of her nymphs, whose tainted purity results in her banishment.

Gallery label, February 2010

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

43. [N05490] Diana and Callisto c. 1796

Canvas, 22 1/4 × 36 (56·5 × 91·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856; transferred to the Tate Gallery 1951.

Lit. Davies 1946, p. 159; Gage 1974, p. 72, pl. 15.

This is a copy or variant of Richard Wilson's much repeated composition (see W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson 1953, pp. 164–5, pls. 23a and b, 24a.). John Gage has suggested that, as it is closest in certain details to J. Wood's engraving of 1764 of a picture described as being in the collection of Henry Hoare (repr. Gage, op. cit., pl. 14), it reflects Turner's knowledge of the original, which he could have seen at Stourhead. However, a version by Wilson still in the Hoare collection (but unknown to Gage when he wrote his article) is in the reverse direction to both the engraving and to the Turner and differs in several particulars from both (as Constable points out, neither the dimensions nor the format of Wood's engraving match those of the Wilson still in the Hoare collection). Turner is as likely, therefore, to have worked from the engraving as from the painting.

Nevertheless, in so far as one can tell from the dirty and damaged condition of the Turner, it is crudely enough handled to justify Gage's dating of c. 1796, some two years earlier than Turner's most Wilsonian period. The main damages are in the sky and in the tree on the left. The painting is now (1984) being restored.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

You might like