Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study for ‘The Expulsion from Paradise’, for Milton’s ‘Poetical Works’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 235 × 159 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 118

Catalogue entry

Jan Piggott has identified this small vignette as a study for The Expulsion from Paradise circa 1834 (currently untraced),1 a watercolour illustration which Turner produced for Egerton Brydges’s edition of The Poetical Works of John Milton, published in 1835.2 The design, which was engraved by Edward Goodall to accompany ‘Paradise Lost’ in Book XI, depicts Adam and Eve being sent from the gates of paradise by a sword-bearing angel.3 In the background is a lush, dense forest bathed in a hazy light, with the viewer’s eye being drawn into the distance by the pale ribbon of a meandering river.
The study confirms the basic details of the final composition. The landscape, including the tall palm trees framing the scene, has been established with light watercolour washes whilst the figurative detail has been added in pencil. The artist has left the lightest areas, the sun and the river, as blank forms on the paper. The delicate brushwork and soft palette convey the ethereal, dream-like quality of the scene.
The work is one of three watercolours in Tate’s collection associated with Milton’s Poetical Works (see also Tate D27614, D27597; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 97, 80, and Tate T06500).
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.1266.
Piggott 1993, p.96.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, 1913, no.600. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T06631).
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 82 P | M’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge and ‘D27635’ bottom centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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