by S. Fisher, 1835, for W.E. Finden's Illustrations of the Bible, 1835-36 (R. 595)
Turner's view shows the ancient walled city bathed in strong sunlight. In the foreground, three women in Greek dress congregate around a large well, the water for which appears to be pumped by the figure on the extreme left of the composition. One of the women reclines lazily upon the flagstones, resting her arm on a water jug. To her right a man, perhaps on his way to a market, can be seen surrounded by a large number of jugs and vases. Behind these figures, Turner leads the eye down the hill to the walls, towers and harbour of the city. The tall tower at the left-hand side of the harbour's entrance occupies the place where one of the seven wonders of the world, the Colossus of the Sun, once stood. Beyond the sea, which is dotted with tiny sailing boats, lies the coast of Asia Minor and the mountains of Caramania.
This watercolour is one of twenty-six works that Turner drew between 1833 and 1836 for Finden's Illustrations of the Bible. On studying these watercolours, John Ruskin described them as 'quite unrivalled examples of his richest executive power on a small scale'.1 W.G. Rawlinson, in his book on Turner's engraved work, described them as 'strikingly poetical'.2
The Finden brothers employed two other artists to create designs for this publication; Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, R.A. and Sir Augustus Wall Callcott, R.A. Like Turner, they had never travelled to the Holy Land or the eastern Mediterranean. As a result the three professional artists relied on sketches made mainly by amateur artists to provide the basis of their work. The present watercolour was based upon a drawing by Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) who had conducted an extensive Grand Tour to the Near East between 1817 and 1820.
Despite relying on another artist's sketches in order to carry out this commission, John Ruskin was adamant that Turner produced works that were far more than mere copies. He wrote: 'of one thing I am certain, Turner never drew anything that could be seen, without having seen it. That is to say that though he would draw Jerusalem from someone else's sketch, it would be nevertheless, entirely his own experience of ruined walls'.3
1. E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, Ed., The Works of John Ruskin, London 1903-1912, XIII, p. 447
2. W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, London 1908-13, vol. 1, pl. VIII
3. E.T. Cook and A. Wedderburn, Ed., op. cit., London 1903-1912, XII, p. 42
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