J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Antony and Cleopatra 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 84 Verso:
Antony and Cleopatra 1805
Turner Bequest XC 84a
Pen and ink on off-white wove paper, 150 x 258 mm
Inscribed by Turner in ink ‘Anthony & Cleopatra’ lower right of centre
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Drawn with the sketchbook inverted. This quite elaborate study shows a large and sumptuously decorated vessel surrounded by smaller boats and excited crowds of figures in a harbour. A slighter variant of some of the figures, with the same inscription, is on folio 83 verso (D05615). Also related is the sketch of a ship with figures on folio 1 (D05491) on which Turner noted ‘Cleopatra sailing down to Cydnus’ as a possible subject along with other alternatives. There, a meeting of two lovers is more clearly discernible than it is here in the denser crowds. In this study Turner has let his imagination run riot, giving the ship a prow or stern with the carved figure of a reclining female nude, thus presumably to denote the golden barge in which Cleopatra arrived at Tarsus, on the River Cydnus, having been summoned by Mark Antony to explain her actions in regard to the murder of Julius Caesar. It was then that Mark Antony fell in love with her. However Finberg, followed by Hill, assumed the barge is on the Nile.
Compare the drawing of state barges on the Thames on folio 20 (D05518).

David Blayney Brown
August 2007

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Antony and Cleopatra 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2007, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-antony-and-cleopatra-r1129932, accessed 17 January 2022.