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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Temple of Aphaia at Aegina ('The Temple of Jupiter in the Island of Aegina') c.1816

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Temple of Aphaia at Aegina (‘The Temple of Jupiter in the Island of Aegina’) circa 1816
Vaughan Bequest CXVIII S
Pencil and watercolour on off-white wove writing paper, 197 x 294 mm
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Bought from Henry Dawe by Charles Stokes by 1848, 15 guineas
Bequeathed by Stokes to Hannah Cooper, 1853
Exchanged either 12 December 1856 or February 1857 via Thomas Griffith
Henry Vaughan by 1862 (see main catalogue entry)
(variant engraved: see main catalogue entry)
At the 1816 Royal Academy exhibition, Turner exhibited two large paintings, The Temple of Jupiter Panellenius Restored1 and View of the Temple of Jupiter Panellenius, in the Island of Ægina, with the Greek National Dance of the Romaika: the Acropolis of Athens in the Distance. Painted from a sketch taken by H. Gally Knight, Esq. in 1810 (both in private collections).2 The first was a reconstruction of the temple and its setting in its prime at dawn, with a wedding procession in the foreground; the second a modern view with the temple, in ruins at sunset, a fundamentally pessimistic image,3 as engraved (though not published), for the Liber Studiorum. By 1816 Greece was still under the longstanding rule of the Ottoman Empire and did not attain independence until 1829 after several years of war; although he never travelled there, Turner’s general sympathy for the cause of Greece (championed most prominently by Lord Byron, whose works Turner illustrated) and interest in Greek culture – as distinct from general Classical themes mediated through Roman sources – has been clearly established.4
The island of Aegina (or Aíyina) lies roughly twenty miles to the south-west of Athens. Traditionally, following the identification in Turner’s time, the Liber composition has been said to show the Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius (Zeus Hellanios) but the Doric building is now identified as being dedicated to the mother-goddess Aphaia.5 As with his later Biblical watercolours, Turner is here reliant on someone who had actually visited the site; the title of the exhibited painting indicates that he used a sketch by its possible first owner, the antiquarian and poet Henry Gally Knight of Langold Hall, Nottinghamshire.6 Knight knew Byron, and travelled in Greece in 1810–11, when the temple was the subject of an Anglo-German excavation.7 Turner later produced an unrelated watercolour of the temple in ruins for the architect C.R. Cockerell, based on the latter’s drawings from the 1811 expedition (private collection).8
The Liber print was actually engraved from a variant drawing, of the same size and technique9 (both were owned by the plate’s engraver, Henry Dawe, and remained together until 1856); at first sight the compositions are similar, and the differences in the ruined temple and background are not greatly significant – though some landscape elements in the Tate drawing are oddly closer to those in the painting of the restored temple. However, the foreground of the Tate version is populated by goats and three reclining semi-nude figures of the type derived from Claude Lorrain elsewhere in the Liber (see drawings for the ‘EP’ category, for which the present composition is a possible candidate, such as Woman and Tambourine and The Bridge in the Middle Distance: Tate D08103, D08117; Turner Bequest CXVI B, P), whereas the drawing used for the print included contemporary figures in Turkish dress seated around a dancer with a tambourine – a closer transcription of the painting, albeit with the large group of dancing women and musicians replaced with the lone woman.
While the light comes from the right (the east) in the Tate variant, implying morning and thus optimism as in the painting of the temple when new (the temple in the drawing is ruined, but presented in a timeless Arcadian setting), in the version that was actually engraved the light from the left is consistent with sunset and an implied decline (as discussed above). Gillian Forrester has suggested that as the two drawings remained with Dawe, Turner may at one stage have thought of them as a pair rather than alternatives, just as he had occasionally used other locations twice in the published Liber sequence.10
The composition is recorded, as ‘Knights Pic ... Daw’, in a list (now rubbed and difficult to decipher) of Liber works in progress around 1817–18 inside the back cover of the Aesacus and Hesperie sketchbook (Tate D40933; Turner Bequest CLXIX).11 It is also noted, as ‘Daw ... Knight’s Picture’, with various other Liber subjects in the Farnley sketchbook (Tate D11998; Turner Bequest CLIII 2a); the list was possibly complied during Turner’s visit to Farnley in November 1818 and is headed ‘Liber Studiorum Plates out Jany 1 1819’.12
The etching and mezzotint engraving, with etching variously attributed to Turner or Henry Dawe and engraving by Dawe, was among the unpublished Liber Studiorum prints (Rawlinson/Finberg nos.72–91;13 see also Tate D08170–D08172, D08174–D08178, D25451; Turner Bequest CXVIII U, CCLXIII 328, Vaughan Bequest CXVIII P, Q, R, T, V, W, X; and Tate N02782, N03631). Tate does not hold any impressions.
In 1920, Frank Short etched and mezzotinted this subject14 (following the published print rather than the variant Turner Bequest drawing) as one of his interpretations of the unpublished Liber plates (Tate T04873,15 T05062 and T05063;16 see general Liber introduction).
By 1848 the present work had been bought for 15 guineas from Henry Dawe by Turner’s friend Charles Stokes, who bequeathed it to his niece Hannah Cooper in 1853; she exchanged in in 1856 or 1857 through Turner’s dealer Thomas Griffith.17 Henry Vaughan owned the drawing by 1862 when, according to its printed lettering, an original mounted photograph was taken of it by ‘J. Hogarth Jun.’ (copy in Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London). The lettering continues: ‘London, Published by J. Hogarth, Haymarket, | Dec.31. 1862.’ (See also notes on photographs of Vaughan’s Liber drawings Isis and Moonlight at Sea (The Needles): Tate D08168, D08176; Vaughan Bequest CXVIII N, CXVIII V.)
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.97–8 no.133 pl.138 (colour).
Ibid., pp.98–100 no.134 pl.139 (colour).
Gage 1981, p.16.
Ibid., pp.[14]–25.
Ibid., p.18.
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.98–9.
Gage 1981, pp.16, 18; Brown 1992, pp.87, 88.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.356 no.493, reproduced.
Sotheby’s (pace Forrester 1996), London, 15 July 1964 (43, reproduced); Forrester 1996, p.141, as ‘Private Collection’.
Forrester 1996, p.141 and note 10.
Ibid., p.163 (transcribed).
Ibid., p.160 (transcribed).
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, Turner’s Liber Studiorum, A Description and a Catalogue, London 1878, pp.144–69; ... Second Edition, Revised Throughout, London 1906, pp.169–96; Finberg 1924, pp.287–365.
Hardie 1938, pp.57–8 no.22, reproduced p.[93] pl.VII A.
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions 1986 – 88, London 1996, p.68, reproduced.
Ibid., p.74.
Forrester 1996, p.141; ‘Cooper Notebooks’, circa 1853–8, vol.II, p.6 no.2 or 3 in Krause 1997, p.267, the uncertainty owing to Cooper’s not distinguishing between the two versions.
Technical notes:
There is detailed pencil drawing for the figures and goats, and reserves were left for the figures. Washes were followed by fine, detailed brushwork; a wet wash gives emphasis to the horizon line. The sky was painted onto wet paper; the foreground washes were not very wet. There was some washing-out for the lights, but no scratching-out. Fingerprints are evident at the centre of the lower edge. The overall very warm brown colour is due to the use of an Indian red pigment.1
Joyce Townsend, circa 1995, Tate conservation files.
Blank, save for inscriptions.
Inscribed in pencil ‘1’ or ‘I’ top centre, and ‘S | 77’ centre right
Stamped in black ‘[crown] | N•G | CXVIII – S’ bottom left
There is a large orange patch at the upper right.

Matthew Imms
May 2006

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The Temple of Aphaia at Aegina (‘The Temple of Jupiter in the Island of Aegina’) c.1816 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, May 2006, 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-the-temple-of-aphaia-at-aegina-the-temple-of-jupiter-in-the-r1131778, accessed 27 October 2020.