Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscription by Turner: Notes from Sir William Jones’s ‘On the Chronology of the Hindus’ and ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 69 x 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXXII 41

Catalogue entry

The whole page is taken up with the following notes in ink:
the [...] idea of immensity of space. | vide for W Jones on the Chronology of the Hindoo to | [?give] the vastness of Brahmas power and eternity says | a 1000 of ages that continue are a day of Brahme, | a thousand such days are an hour of Vishnu 600 | thousand make a period of Rudras that is two | quadrillions 590–000 [‘592–000’ inserted above] trillions of lunar years are | but a second to the Supreme Being Calii the sable | Goddess to whom human victims have been sacrif | by the Hindoo that [?particularly] believe the notion | the [...] – [...] the ancient | [?Proserpina] – Sanscreet – I suppose Asiatic1
William Chubb has identified Turner’s text as taken from ‘On the Chronology of the Hindus’ and ‘On the Gods of Greece, Italy and India’ by the Orientalist Sir William Jones (1746–1794).2 He transcribes Jones’s texts as follows; firstly from the ‘Chronology’, published in volume I of Asiatick Researches (1789) and again in volume I of Jones’s Works (1799):
In the preface to a Varanes Almanack I find the following wild stanza: ‘A thousand Great Ages are a day of Brahma; a thousand such days are an Indian hour of Vishnu; six hundred thousand such hours make a period of Rudra; and a million of Rudras (or two quadrillions five hundred and ninety-two thousand trillions of lunar years), are but a second to the Supreme Being.3
The relevant passage of ‘On the Gods’, published in volume II of Asiatick Researches (1790) and again in Jones’s Works immediately following the ‘Chronology’ quoted above, reads:
The last of the Greek or Italian divinities, for whom we find a parallel in the Pantheon of India, is the Stygian or Taurick Diana, otherwise named Hecate, and often confounded with Proserpine; and there can be no doubt of her identity with Cali, or the wife of Siva in his character of the Stygian Jove. To this black goddess with a collar of golden skulls, as we see her exhibited in all her principle [sic] temples, human sacrifices were anciently offered, as the Vedas enjoined; ...4
As transcribed in Chubb 1981, p.35, with several variations.
Ibid., p.28.
Ibid., p.35; transcribed in turn from the reprinted text in P.J. Marshall, The British Discovery of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century, Cambridge 1970, p.265.
Chubb 1981, p.35; from Marshall 1970, p.237.
Ibid., p.35.
See ibid., pp.[26]–35; see also an account of Chubb’s talk at York University 1980 (upon which his 1981 article was based), mentioning the Finance sketchbook notes, in Joll 1981, p.42.
Chubb 1981, p.34.
See John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, pp.207–9.
See Nicholson 1990, pp.152, 213 note 16; see also Bailey 1997, pp.161–2.
Wilkinson 1974, p.124, and 1977, p.126.

Matthew Imms
September 2013

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