Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for a Classical Landscape: Similar to ‘Mercury and Herse’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 258 × 150 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XC 58 a

Catalogue entry

For Mercury and Herse (on the London art market in 2005)1and related drawings in this sketchbook see folio 57 (D05581). Finberg made no connection with the present drawing and Butlin and Joll, while citing it, are sceptical about a relationship with the picture, which has a different foreground.
Turner’s inscription (which Finberg and Wilton credit to folio 59, D05585) lists other possible subjects: ‘Eneas and Evander | Pallas & Aenas, departing from Evander | Return of the Argo’. The first two are from Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 7: the encounter of Aeneas, while on his journey up the Tiber to fulfil his destiny in founding Rome, with Evander who greets him and forms an alliance; and Aeneas departing for war with Evander’s son Pallas. The third alternative is from the Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius, and indicates the return of Jason with the captured Golden Fleece; for Turner’s source, and for a possible drawing of ‘Jason & Argonauts on Board bearing the Fleece’ see folio 49 verso (D05568).
In some verses in the Perspective sketchbook used several years later (Tate D07393: Turner Bequest CVIII 25) Turner describes the launching of ‘my dear Argo’:
She goes she goes then let her go
Long as the Thames shall flow
O Goddess bless the ship Argo
This has led to speculation that he named his own boat, used for sailing on the Thames, Argo.2

David Blayney Brown
February 2010

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.80–2 no.114 (pl.122); Sotheby’s sale, 5 July 2005, lot 40..
Bailey 1997, p.95.

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