Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study of a Temple, with Rainbow, possibly for Moore’s ‘The Epicurean’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 240 × 161 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 122

Catalogue entry

This loosely executed watercolour study appears to be a preliminary drawing for one of Turner’s literary vignettes; however, it is unclear to which project it is related. The study shows the dark silhouette of a temple set against a dramatically lit sky with a rainbow in the distance. Although the subject shown here does not relate directly to any of Turner’s published vignettes, Jan Piggott has suggested that it may be an illustration of the Necropolis at Alexandria, which features in Thomas Moore’s fantastical prose tale, The Epicurean.1
Although the dramatically contrasting palette and dark, opaque areas of paint are unusual features for Turner’s vignette studies, there are some similarities with another preliminary vignette study (see Tate D27638; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 121). Given the close relationship between these two works, it seems likely that Turner produced them both at around the same time and for the same project. The subject of this second sketch also remains uncertain although Piggott has suggested that it may be related to Lord Ullin’s Daughter, circa 1835 (National Gallery of Scotland), an illustration for Thomas Campbell’s Poetical Works (1837).2
Piggott 1993, p.96.
Piggott 1993, p.96.
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘AB 82 P | M’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

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