Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for a Landscape with a Ruined Roman Bridge: ?Latona and the Herdsmen


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Pen and ink on paper
Support: 150 × 150 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest XC 56

Catalogue entry

This is the second of two versions in this sketchbook of a wooded river landscape with a ruined Italianate bridge in the right middle distance, which seem to be variations on this sketchbook’s various views of the Thames at Kew; the other is folio 55 (D05577). They are among a group of studies depicting episodes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses; see note to folio 54 (D05575). On folio 55 verso Turner lists four Ovidian subjects including ‘Latona and the Herdsman’, the most likely one for the present drawing; ‘Latona and the Herdsmen’. In Book 6 of the Metamorphoses the beautiful Latona, condemned to a life of wandering by Juno, comes upon a pool but is forbidden to slake her thirst by some boorish local peasants. Reminding them that they do not have a monopoly on the fruits of nature, she punishes them by turning them into frogs. Kathleen Nicholson, in a discussion of Turner’s Ovidian subjects, concludes that ‘there is no way of knowing how Turner might have envisioned the scene’ but sees his interest in it as evidence of his wit and his specification of the peasants as ‘herdsmen’ as demonstrating his understanding of its plot.1 However, the presence here of a flock of sheep would align with this and supports Hill’s interpretation.
See note to folio 55 for a related unfinished oil, Trees beside the River, with Bridge in the Middle Distance (Tate N02692)2 and drawing in the Wey, Guildford sketchbook (Tate D06194; Turner Bequest XCVIII 10).

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

Kathleen Nicholson, Turner’s Classical landscapes: Myth and Meaning, Princeton 1990, p.149.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.118 no.169 (pl.169).

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