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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Commentary on Nicolas Poussin's 'Orpheus and Eurydice' (Inscription by Turner) 1802

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 26 Recto:
Commentary on Nicolas Poussin’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ (Inscription by Turner) 1802
Turner Bequest LXXII 26
Inscribed by Turner in black ink (see main catalogue entry) on white wove paper prepared with a pale reddish brown wash, 128 x 114 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘26’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘LXXII–26’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s comments read:
Orpheus and Eurydice. | The sky rather heavy and of a leaden color | The Buildings a yellowish colour | but finely disposed the middle ground light | and the figures scattere’d and Eurydice | falsely lighted – and am inclined to think | that the red drapery of Orpheus and what is | on the tree (which is beautifully disposed) is too | dissimilar [Finberg: disimular] and distracts the majesty of the | whole composition which is fine (contrasted) the | inferior part is the left bank which | is unnaturally dark, unsuccessfully [Finberg: unusefully] so, for it | over balances all – and renders the right | Bank hard and crude, which for | want of richness renders the sky heavy | and the Painter thought to have | remedy’d this by the colouring of the Figures positively | but it here proves that strong colour’d figures | without proximity avail nothing.
Finberg identified Turner’s subject as ‘Poussin’s “Orphée et Eurydice: paysage”’. For Turner and the Louvre Poussins, see notes on folio 25 verso of this sketchbook (D04302). Like the Diogenes described there, this picture has a splendid landscape setting, this time with strong architectural elements including a smoking Castel Sant’Angelo. The subject is from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. At their wedding, Eurydice dies by a snake-bite and Orpheus follows her into the Underworld. Painted about 1650, the picture was acquired by Louis XIV in 1685.

David Blayney Brown
July 2005

How to cite

David Blayney Brown, ‘Commentary on Nicolas Poussin’s ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ (Inscription by Turner) 1802 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, July 2005, 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-commentary-on-nicolas-poussins-orpheus-and-eurydice-r1129712, accessed 24 May 2024.