For the general public
Turner’s poetry and other texts, including the complete titles he gives to his paintings, are often important for understanding fully the meanings of the latter
Yet they are omitted from most of the captions to his paintings on the Tate website.
Here you may judge for yourselves
Let us begin with two early important Carthage pictures, of 1815 and 1817 (are not the first two ? )
Dido building Carthage, exh. 1815, BJ 131, National Gallery, London. This is the title to be found on the National gallery website
We will restore Turner’s full title : Dido building Carthage, or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, as to found in the RA catalogue of 1815
This shows we are in the domain on Empire building, not simply city building
Though it may be argued that Turner wanted to emphasize here the painterly Claudian aspect of the work rather than the historical aspect.
But such is the complete title
BJ THE DECLINE OF THE CARTHAGINIAN EMPIRE EMPIRE, Rome being determined on the overthrow of her hated rival demanded from her such terms as might either force her into war or ruin her by compliance : the enervated Carthagians, in their anxiety for peace, consented to give up even their arms and their children, exh. 1817
(Did they not fight Rome to the bitter end ? Check )
. . . At Hope’s delusive smile, The chieftain’s safety and the mother’s pride, Were to the insidious conqu’or’s grasp resign’d; While o’er the western wave th’ensanguin’d sun In gathering haze a stormy signal spread, And set portentous.
Though this poem is not said by Turner to be from the Fallacies of Hope ms, the conception of these pictures is in the same spirit, it seem to us.
The Tate website, which omitted the greater part of Turner’s title, and Turner’s poetry from the RA catalogue, nevertheless is correct to some extent here for once and opens the possibility that there may be a moral to this picture
This is we find the on the Tate website : “Turner saw the rise and fall of once-great empires as a historical inevitability, confirmed by the fall of Napoleon, but threatening to overtake the victorious British.”
This is all the more to the merit of the Tate that they may explicit what is only implicit in Turner
Nevertheless Turner’s poetry shows that what is at stake is an inner human failing, not historical inevitability
As Butlin and Joel mention, John Gage had allready stressed this fact in an article in 1974 had pointed out that such comparisons of the rise and fall of empires and their application to the contemporary situation were a commonplace in the 18th and 19th as in Goldsmith’s ….and Gibbon’s …. (where in each ? )
Deux autres tableaux importants de Turner à cet égard sont :
Sur le site de la Tate gallery, le poème de Turner est supprimé et il y a simplement le commentaire suivant :
« For Turner, the figure of Hannibal – here leading his armies to attack Italy – had powerful associations with Napoleon. These connections had been explicitly drawn in an official portrait of Napoleon about to lead his own armies across the St Bernard Pass. Snow Storm, however, does not celebrate the power of the individual, but expresses man’s vulnerability in the face of nature’s overwhelming force. Hannibal himself is not pictured, and attention is focused upon victims of the conflict, the struggling soldiers. »
Le poème de Turner, described for the first time as coming from his ‘MS. P(oem?) Fallacies of Hope’, est le suivant :
“Craft, treachery and fraud – Salassian force, Hung on the fainting rear ! Then Plunder seized The victor and the captive,- Sagentum’s spoil Alike became their prey; still the chief advanced Look’d on the sun with hope; – low, broad, and wan; While the fierce archer of the downward year Stains Italy’s blanched barrier with storms In vain each pass, ensanguin’d deep with dead, Or rocky fragments, wide destruction rolled, Still on Campania’s fertile plains — he thought, But the loud breeze sob’d, “Capua’s joys beware ! ”
Il est clair par ce poème et le contexte historique que le thème principal du tableau n’est pas la vulnérabilité de l’homme face a la Nature. Hannibal a franchi avec succès les Alpes, mais son entreprise de l’invasion de l’Italie et la conquête de Rome, le grand rival de Carthage, a été compromis et a finalement échoué, en partie, en tout état de cause, aux excès commis par son armée à Capoue, d’où son ramollissement, et son échec final.
Bel exemple des Illusions de l’Espoir
15/4 BJ 337 Caligula’s Palace and Bridge exhibited 1831
What now remains of all the mighty bridge Which made the Lacrine lake another pool Caligula, but mighty fragments left
342 Child Harold’s Pilgrimage – Italy
It might be useful to have in mind also The first two lines of this stanza which are :
‘Commonwealth of Kings….
Add music of ….Berlioz ? J?
Another important picture is
Ancient Rome : Agrippina landing with the Ashes of Germanicus. The Triumphal Bridge and Palace of the Caesars restored exh 1839, BJ 378, Exhibited with the following lines
“_________The clear stream Aye, -the yellow Tiber glimmers in her beam, Even while the sun is setting”
There is a long commentary on this painting on the in the introductory video to the Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery on the Tate website, at http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/turner-collection, by David Blaney Browne, at 1 minute and 45 seconds :
“(1.51) This painting is called Ancient Rome, Agrippina landing with the ashes of Germanicus which is perhaps rather a daunting title today but the story of Agrippina was very well known to Turners’s generation and it is all about the dedication of a widow whose husband died at Antioch possibly poisoned possibly murdered but she was absolutely devoted to him and she brought his ashes back to Italy not in fact to Rome as Turner shows in the picture but to Brindisi he ‘d been reading the wrong book he’d been reading a? roman history which told the story slightly wrong (2.35) got the place of her arrival slightly wrong but that does really not matter he’s used the picture to reconstruct the architecture of ancient Rome.
2.44 Quite often the stories Turner is telling are quite hard to divine (ricern) because ? the main interest to him is the background or the landscape or in this case the architecture (3.01)
3.07 By the time Turner painted this picture one of his main interest was ? light sunlight mist and it is wonderful to see how this great vision of the ancient city seems to be both emerging and dissolving in the mist (3.26) end of commentary Meet 500 years of British art supported by BP » There seem to us to be a lot of very misleading and questionable statements in this video
The fact that Agrippina is said to be landing in Rome and not in Brindisi is due to poetic or historical licence, not reading the wrong book, as her ultimate goal was Rome.
This is a very minor point The whole episode, as the verses of Turner, which are omitted from the Tate website, make clear, is meant to illustrate a stage in the decline of Rome, in the spirit of Thomson’s liberty.
As Butlin and Joel : “In his verses Turner is presumably referring to this incident as a stage in the decline of Rome », in the spirit of Thomson’s Liberty.
Agrippina was the mother Caligula and grandmother (check and check Thomson).
Indeed Some of Turner’s poetry may be obscure but there is a solid chore that is quite clear, and whose general meaning is expressed in title of the projected Fallacies of Hope, and the main interest is not only the background
That Turner was interested in light and sunlight and mist, (his pre impressionistic side), does not mean he was not also interested in the historical process as Lindsay puts it, as he was in his very last exhibited pictures, the late Aeneas and Dido series.
This general estimation of Turners work will be followed by the elimination of the greater part of Turners poetry from the works on the Tate website and a good deal of the quotations from other poets or from the Bible, giving a distorted and incomplete overall idea of Turner’s work.
Another important picture in this regard is
343 The Prince of Orange, William III, Embarked from Holland, and Landed at Torbay, November 4th, 1688, after a Stormy Passage, BJ 343
This picture was exhibited in 1832 with a reference to ‘-” History of England” ‘ and the text ‘The yacht in which his majesty sailed was after many changes and services, finally wrecked on the Hambourg sands, while employed in the Hull trade’
According to like Lindsay, there is a reference to political events in England at the time : 1832 was a year of radical agitation, insurrection ‘(at Bristol) and successful parliamentary reform
Lindsay sees here a Thomsonian inspiration. Part IV of Liberty ends with a long apostrophe to William as the man who saved England from bigotry and oppression. Thomson stresses the storm as symbolically representing the counter-revolution. Liberty speaks :
« Immortal Nassau came. I hushed the deep By demons roused, and bade the listed winds, Still shifting as behoved, with various breath Waft the deliverer to the longing shore ». (Liberty, …)
In the context of the struggle for the Reform Bill, Tuner’s picture of William , in the face of the opposition of the elements to bring about the Glorious Revolution can only have one meaning …..
Lindsay suggest that here is an allegorical intent in the note added : ‘Turner reminds of the twist that distorts men’s aims and hopes ; the triumphant ship of liberty is wrecked in the end as the mere instrument of trade’. Lindsay, p. 62
The Tate website omits Turner’s text and simply put forward the following :
« This representation of an historical event contains a number of errors. William’s fleet had indeed been beaten back to base in October 1688 but on 1 November sailed in perfect weather, landing on 5 November.
Like various earlier Dutch-inspired compositions, this, too, carries a political message connected with Anglo-Dutch relations. Here, Turner criticises again British non-intervention in the Belgian revolt, which was to lead to the termination in 1839 of the United Netherlands. »
Placing he storm between the 1 and 5th of november instead of in october of november The storm is obviously symbolical, poetic or painterly licence so to say.
The storm is symbolical of the opposition to reform, as it already was in Thomson.
If the painting was referring to the Anglo Dutch relations and were a criticism against British non intervention there would be no reason for a symbolical storm.
Moreover the Belgian revolt was perfectly legitimate
One can hardly see how Turner could be against it, and wish British intervention. There is no evidence whatsoever of this.
Butlin and Joll also make the parallel between the Glorious Revolution and the passing of the Reform Bill
They make no mention of Anglo-Dutch relations or the Belgian revolution, either in their commentary or their bibliography.
The Tate website caption continues
« In the Academy catalogue Turner added a curious note about the Prince having sailed his yacht, not a frigate – a confusion with his arrival in a yacht for his wedding to Princess Mary on 4th (!) November 1677. »
Turner’s note is quite clear.
This is a frequent theme in Thomson, and classical thought There can be too much trade
BJ 402 THE SUN OF VENICE GOING TO SEA 1843,
‘Fair shines the morn, and soft the zephyrs blow Venezia’s fisher spreads his painted sail so gay, Nor heeds the demon that in grim repose Expects his evening prey.’ Fallacies of Hope M.S.
Add Ruskin comment about Turners changing poetic quote, producing sibylline result to delight of collectors of such
Keep this here ?
Add full quote of Revelation and compare to Tate
Tate omits mighty men in
Considers Judith scene as betrayal , not doing in might man
See our earlier UMTB essay