Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study for ‘The Acropolis, Athens’; Shipping at Sea; Ruins at Richborough


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 76 × 98 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIII 43 a

Catalogue entry

The main subject, described by Finberg as simply ‘ruins on hill’1 in fact shows the great Acropolis of Athens in Greece from the west, in the configuration first depicted by Turner in a watercolour made for his friend and patron Walter Fawkes in 1822 to illustrate Lord Byron’s poem The Giaour (Museum of the City of Athens Vouros-Eutaxias).2 The present sketch appears to be related to the later watercolour of The Acropolis, Athens (private collection),3 engraved in 1832 for Finden’s Landscape Illustrations of Byron’s works (Tate impression: T06177), with the buildings contre-jour against the low sun, indicated as a disk beside them here. See also two sheets of ‘colour beginnings’ for the subject (Tate D36275–D36276, D36270; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 253 1 and 2, CCCLXIV 402), and folio 6 verso (D35768) for another possible Byronic subject.
The small drawing of shipping at sea at the top right, framed by pencil lines and illegibly inscribed, continues onto the inside of the back cover opposite (D41228), where ‘Fog coming on’ is noted. The present half includes a distant steamer trailing smoke. At the foot of the page is the low profile of ruined Roman walls at Richborough Castle near Sandwich, also continued across D41228; for other drawings of the site see under folio 7 recto (D35769).

Matthew Imms
September 2016

Finberg 1909, II, p.1178.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.425 no.1055, reproduced.
Ibid., p.445 no.1212, reproduced.

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