Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Destruction of the Bards by Edward I


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 679 × 1000 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXX Q

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This painting seems to be an abandoned companion to 'Caernarvon Castle'. Perhaps consciously, the two paintings perfectly illustrate the fashionable aesthetic concepts of 'beautiful' and 'sublime'. It is more faithful, however, to Gray's 'The Bard', particularly where the poem describes Edward I's army winding through Snowdonia (open in a nearby display case). Historically, Edward's final advance in 1283 preceded the building of Caernarvon Castle. It is this earlier moment which lies at the heart of Turner's landscape of breathtaking savageness, paralleling that of the advancing force. The archetypal image of the Bard issuing his curse from the mountains above is absent, although this is perhaps experimented with on another sheet (shown adjacently).

Gallery label, September 2004

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