Joseph Mallord William Turner

Three Composition Studies for ‘The Festival upon the Opening of the Vintage of Macon’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Chalk on paper
Support: 271 × 436 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest LXXXI 54

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, these composition studies show Turner’s early thoughts on the subject of The Festival upon the Opening of the Vintage at Macon, the large picture that he showed at the Royal Academy in 1803 (Museums Sheffield).1 There are further, much more specific, studies for the picture on folios 59 verso–60 recto (D05018–D05019; Turner Bequest LXXXI 116–117). It is interesting that, while Turner made these careful preparations for what was to be an important early response to his first visit to the Continent, there exist no drawings made on the spot that might serve as a foundation for his composition.
Indeed, the picture seems to be reliant on works by Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682) rather on any specific topography; Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll mention in particular the Landscape with Jacob, Laban and his Daughters2 that Turner might already have seen in the collection of the 3rd Earl of Egremont at Petworth House in West Sussex (now National Trust). This was a work that he was to become intimately acquainted with, and indeed he made a very close pastiche of it in his Apullia in Search of Appullus vide Ovid, shown at the British Institution in 1814 (Tate N00495).3
However, in the first years of the century Turner was probably not familiar with the Egremont collection, though we know that he had been to the town of Petworth as early as 1793: a drawing of about that year has been identified as showing Petworth Church (private collection).4 Butlin and Joll speculate that Turner relied on the engraving of the Egremont picture by William Woollett, published in 1783.5 It was not the first of his pictures to depend on Claudian prototypes: he had already produced two large watercolours of Caernarvon Castle, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1799 (private collection)6 and 1800 (Tate D04164; Turner Bequest LXX M),7 as well as the oil painting of about 1798, Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus (Tate N00463),8 all of which have Claudian compositions; but the Macon was certainly the first really substantial oil painting to announce his devotion to Claude.

Andrew Wilton
May 2013

Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.36–7 no.47, pl.55 (colour).
Ibid., p.36.
Ibid., pp.91–2 no.128, pl.134.
See Martin Butlin, Mollie Luther and Ian Warrell, Turner at Petworth: Painter and Patron, London 1989, p.130, fig.127.
Butlin and Joll 1984, p.36.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.328 no.254, pl.47 (colour).
Ibid., p.329 no.263, pl.52.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.24–5 no.34, pl.50 (colour).
Ibid., p.36.
Ibid., pp.64–5 no.86, pl.96 (colour).
Ibid., pp.106–7 no.140, pl.145 (colour).
Ibid., p.301 no.511, pl.513 (colour).
See James Hamilton, Turner’s Britain, exhibition catalogue, Gas Hall, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery 2003, pp.75–6.

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