Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘Hannibal Passing the Alps’, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 258 × 344 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 6

Catalogue entry

This study is one of three preparatory drawings that Turner made for the vignette Hannibal Passing the Alps (Tate D27666; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 149), which is the head-piece for the section entitled ‘The Alps’ in Rogers’s Italy.1 In contrast to this focused figural study, Turner’s two other preparatory drawings concentrate on the dramatic Alpine landscape that forms the backdrop in the final version of the vignette (see Tate D27525; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 8 and Tate D27668; Turner Bequest 151).
The main subjects of the sketch are the elephant and rider who reappear, in slightly reduced form, on the right side of Turner’s final vignette. In both the preliminary and finished versions of this subject, the rider is shown with arms outstretched in a commanding pose and his trumpeting elephant bears a pink palanquin on his back. In this study these figures are followed by two pink military standards and are surrounded by Hannibal’s hordes, which are merely suggested by loose strokes of grey and brown watercolour. On the far left, a standing figure holds a raised weapon. In the final version this warrior is relocated to the centre of the composition and reconceived as an African archer, elegantly poised to launch an arrow from his bow.
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.29.
Technical notes:
Watermark ‘Not Bleachd
Inscribed by unknown hand in pencil ‘CCLXXX 6’ top left, inverted

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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