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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia 1805

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 1 Recto:
Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia 1805
Turner Bequest XCVIII 1
Pencil on white laid paper, 117 x 182 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘Ascanius’ lower right of centre
Inscribed John Ruskin in red ink ‘1’ bottom left, descending vertically
Stamped in black ‘XCVIII 1’ bottom left, descending vertically
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This very slight outline sketch is one of two in this sketchbook illustrating the Aeneid; see Introduction to the sketchbook and folios 1 verso–2 (D06181–D06182). The story of Aeneas’s son Ascanius is told in Book 7, 483–99. In Virgil’s version, which is only one of various narratives,1 Ascanius was the son of Aeneas by the Trojan, Creusa. After the fall of Troy, father and son escape to Italy where Ascanius provokes a war between the Trojans and the Latins by wounding a pet stag belonging to Silvia, the daughter of the royal herdsman.
In Tuner’s sketch Ascanius, with another figure, is seen at centre, drawing a bow to shoot the stag, visible at right. The setting of a classical landscape near the coast, with architecture, is reminiscent of Claude Lorrain, both of his last painting, Landscape with Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and the earlier Coast of Libya with Aeneas Hunting (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels). Noting these similarities, Nicholson observes that the subject ‘provided exactly the kind of irony-laden moment set out-of-doors in a wooded landscape that Turner preferred’, but that he did not pursue it further than this sketch.2

David Blayney Brown
July 2008

For Virgil’s and other versions see Sergio Casali, ‘The development of the Aeneas Legend’, in Joseph Farrell and Michael C.J. Putnam eds., A Companion to Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’ and its Tradition, Chichester 2010, pp.48–9.
Nicholson 1990, pp.276–7.

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Ascanius Shooting the Stag of Silvia 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2008, 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-ascanius-shooting-the-stag-of-silvia-r1130362, accessed 24 May 2022.