Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study for ‘Corinth, from the Acropolis’ for Byron’s ‘Life and Works’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 256 × 323 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 20

Catalogue entry

This study is a preliminary sketch for Corinth, from the Acropolis 1832 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), a watercolour vignette which Turner produced as a frontispiece to volume X of Byron’s Life and Works (1832–3).1 The design was engraved by Edward Finden.2 Based on a sketch by William Page, the illustration depicts the ruined Temple of Apollo in the ancient Greek city and sets the scene for Byron’s poem, ‘The Siege of Corinth’, inspired by the Turkish attack in 1715:
    Yet she stands
A Fortress form’d to Freedom’s hands
The keystone of a land which still.
Though fall’n, looks proudly on that hill,
The landmark to the double tide
That purpling rolls on either side,
As if their waters chafed to meet ...
(Byron, Life and Works, lines 3–9)3
The sketch sets out in colour the basic composition for Turner’s finished design. Several details such as the distant blue mountains, the temple in the middle distance and the Islamic minaret faintly indicated in the foreground, all reappear in greater detail in the final work. There is a similar variation of the study on the verso of this sheet (see D40315).
Turner designed seventeen vignette illustrations for Byron’s Life and Works but this sheet appears to contain the only related studies in the Turner Bequest.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1224.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.420.
Quoted in David Brown, Turner and Byron, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, p.110.
See D40315

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Revised by Matthew Imms
May 2013

Read full Catalogue entry

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