Joseph Mallord William Turner

List of Subjects from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ (Inscriptions by Turner)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 150 x 258 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XC 55 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s inscriptions read ‘Latona and the Herdsmen | Phaeton’s Sisters | Pan & Syrinx | Salamacis and Hermaphroditus’. These subjects are from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and relate to a group of drawings in this sketchbook for which see note to folio 54 (D05575); they are probably not only applicable to folio 56, as Hill implies, and indeed he also identifies this last drawing as Latona and the Herdsmen. For Phaeton’s Sisters see folio 54 verso (D05576) and Pan and Syrinx folio 55 (D05577). Salmacis and Hermaphroditus belong to Book 4 of the Metamorphoses. The youth Hermaphroditus strips to bathe in a woodland pool and Salmacis, overcome with desire, flings herself upon him. Their union is made permanent in a fusion of their physical attributes. As Nicholson observes,1 the subjects of Pan and Syrinx and Salmacis and Hermaphroditus are complementary, representing sexual desire respectively from the male and female point of view.

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

Nicholson 1990, p.149.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like