« ZurückWeiter »
of death, or one connected with any deathful memories. But the morning light is unmistakably indicated by the pure whiteness of the mists, and upper mountain snows, above the Polyphemus; at evening they would have been in an orange glow. Moreover in the distance is Apollo,-his horses are rising beyond the horizon (see under X. 53,p. 218), but above it, gaining somewhat of a victory over vapour, it appears." (The chariot and horses of the God of Day were once, Mr. Ruskin tells me, more visible than they are now.) “The white column of smoke which rises from the mountain slope is a curious instance of Turner's careful reading of his text (I presume him to have read Pope only)2 —
The land of Cyclops lay in prospect near,
And from their mountains rising smokes appear. Homer says simply : “We were so near the Cyclops' land, that we could see smoke, and hear the voices, and the bleating of the sheep and goats. Turner was, however, so excessively fond of opposing a massive form with a light wreath of smoke (perhaps almost the only proceeding which could be said with him to have become a matter of recipe) that I do not doubt we should have had some smoke at any rate, only it is made more prominent in consequence of Pope's lines. The Cyclops' cave is low down at the shore--where the red fire is—and, considering that Turner was at this time Professor of Perspective to the Royal Academy, and that much outcry has lately been raised against supposed Pre-Raphaelite violations
1 - The very sign in heaven itself, which, truly understood, is the type of love, was to Turner the type of death. The scarlet of the clouds was his symbol of destruction. In his mind it was the colour of blood." So he used it in the “Fall of Carthage" (499, now at Manchester). Note his own written words, “While o'er the western wave the ensanguined sun, etc." Other instances are the drawing of Goldau, the Slave-ship, the Napoleon at St. Helena and the Téméraire (524) (see Jodern Painters, vol. iv. pt. v. ch. xviii. & 24 ; vol. v. pt. ix. ch. xi. $ 31 n.)
• Thornbury relates a story in this connection which is amusingly characteristic of “the secretive sort of fun" with which Turner loved to mystify busy-bodies and dilettanti." Turner was at a dinner-party where this picture was the theme of some idle talk. "Come now," said Turner, “ I bet you don't know where I took the subject from." " From the Odyssey, of course," replied his fellow-guest. “Odyssey !" grunted Turner, bursting into a chuckle; "not a bit of it! I took it from Tom Dibdin. Don't you know the lines
He ate his mutton, drank his wine.
of perspective law, I think we may not unwarrantably inquire how our Professor supposed that that Cyclops could ever have got into that cave. For the naval and mythological portion of the picture, I have not much to say : its real power is in its pure nature, and not in its fancy. If Greek ships ever resembled this one, Homer must have been a calumnious and foul-mouthed person in calling them continually black ships'; and the entire conception, so far as its idealism and watercarriage are concerned, is merely a composition of the Lord Mayor's procession with a piece of ballet-scenery. The Cyclops is fine, passionate enough, and not disgusting in his hugeness; but I wish he were out of the way, as well as the sails and flags, that we might see the mountains better. The island rock is tunnelled at the bottom-on classical principles. The sea grows calm all at once, that it may reflect the sun; and one's first impression is that Leucothea is taking Ulysses right on the Goodwin Sands. But, granting the local calmness, the burnished glow upon the sea, and the breezy stir in the blue darkness about the base of the cliffs, and the noble space of receding sky, vaulted with its bars of cloudy gold, and the upper peaks of the snowy Sicilian promontory, are all as perfect and as great as human work can be. This sky is beyond comparison the finest that exists in Turner's oil paintings. Next to it comes that of the Slaver,' and third, that of the 'Téméraire'” (Notes on the Turner Gallery, pp. 46, 47). These skies of Turner's have the same gorgeous colouring that Shelley loved (cf. under XIX. 548, p. 633)—
Half the sky
Julian and Maddalo. 461. MORNING ON THE CONISTON FELLS.
Ye mists and exhalations that now rise
MILTON : Paradise Lost, bk. v. This picture, now invisible, was exhibited in 1798, and these lines were the first poetical motto given by Turner to a picture of his. “There is a strange ominousness—as there is about much that great men do—in the choice of it. Consider how these four lines express Turner's peculiar mission as distinguished from other landscapists; his mind was set from the first, it would seem, on rendering atmospheric effects * (Notes on the Turner Gallery, p. 32; Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix, ch. x. & 3). 505. THE BAY OF BAIÆ, WITH APOLLO AND
Waft me to sunny Baix's shore. This quotation, put by Turner to the picture when he exhibited it in 1823, marks that spirit of exultation in the splendour and gladness of the world which was characteristic of his second period (see p. 589). It is a picture of one of the most beautiful spots in Italy—“the bay with the gracious splendour of blue sea, which made the Roman nobles build palaces round it.” Horace celebrated it as without a rival in the world : nullus in orbe sinus Baiis prælucet amenis (Epist. i. 1, 83), and on a stone to the left Turner puts another tribute from Horace: liquidæ placuere Baiæ (Odes iii. 4, 24). The castle of Baiæ, from which the bay takes its name, is seen on the right; and on the opposite side, is the distant Puzzuoli, the Puteoli of the Romans. But in the details it is a Baiæ of Turner's own creation, which he has bathed with all his loveliest light, and upon which he has lavished all his powers of rendering the exceeding intricacy of nature's foregrounds. Mr. Ruskin says of this picture, and of the “Mercury and Argus" (now in a foreign collection): “ Often as I have paused before these noble works, I never felt on returning to them as if I had ever seen them before. ... For the foregrounds of Turner are so united in all their parts that the eye cannot take them by divisions, but is guided from stone to stone and bank to bank, discovering truths totally different in aspect according to the direction in which it approaches them, and approaching them in a different direction, and viewing them as part of a new system every time that it begins its course at a new point” (Modern Painters, vol. i. pt. ii. sec, iv. ch. iv. § 29). True to nature in its infinite variety, it is true also in its rendering of the refinement of natural forms, * Examine, for example, carefully, the drawing of the brown tendrils and lighter leaves which encompass the stem of the tree on the left, then the bough drawing, spray by spray, in the trees themselves, then the little bit of bay underneath the Castle of Baiæ, just close to the stems; go afterwards to the View of Clapham Common '(XIX. 468, p. 640), and you will feel the change sufficiently (from Turner's first to his second manner). There is a curious sign, however, of the remaining influences of the theories of idealism on Turner in the treatment of the stone pines. . . . He takes a stone pine to begin with, and keeps its general look of close shade and heaviness of mass; but as boughs of stone pine are apt to be cramped and rugged, and crampedness and ruggedness are un-ideal, he rejects the pine nature in the branches, and gives them the extremities of a witch elm !” (cf. under 516, p. 605).
1 There is an interesting story attached to the "splendid falseness" of the scene. Turner's friend, Jones, having discussed the picture with a traveller fresh from the spot, wrote on the frame splendide merdar, Turner saw it, and laughed. His friend told him that where he had planted some hills with vineyards, there was nothing in reality but a few dry sticks. Turner smiled, and said it was all there, and that all poets were liars. The inscription remained on the frame of the picture for years ; Turner never removed it (Thornbury, i. 229).
2 • The following procedure will, I think, under these circumstances, be found serviceable, Take a stiff piece of pasteboard, about eight inches square, and cut out in the centre of it an oblong opening, two and a half inches by three. Bring this with you to the picture, and standing three or four feet from it, according to your power of sight, look through the opening in the card at the middle distance, holding the card a foot or two from the eye, so as to turn the picture, piece by piece, into a series of small subjects. Examine these subjects quietly, one by one ; sometimes holding the opening horizontal, sometimes upright, according to the bit you are examining, and you will find, I believe, in a very little while, that each of these small subjects becomes more interesting to you, and seems to have more in it, than the whole picture did before" (Notes on the Turner Gallery, p. 41).
Turning now from the details of the landscape to the general sentiment of the picture, one may notice in it a strange sense of desolation. “The gods sit among the ruins, but do not attempt to mend any, having apparently come there as tourist gods. Though there are boats and figures on the shore, and a shepherd on the left, the greater part of the landscape is very desolate in its richness— full of apples and oranges, with nobody to eat them ; of pleasant waters, with nobody to drink; of pleasant shades, with nobody to be cool ; only a snake and a rabbit for inheritors of all that dominion of hill and forest :we perceive, however, with consternation, by the two streams which have been diverted from the river to fall through the arches of the building near the bridge, that Nobody must have succeeded in establishing a mill among the ruins. Concerning which, it must be remembered that, though Turner had now broken through accepted rules of art, he had not broken through the accepted laws of idealism ; and mills were, at this time, necessary and orthodox in poetical landscape, being supposed to give its elements, otherwise ethereal and ambrosial, an agreeable earthy flavour, like truffles in pies” (see, for instance, Claude's equally ideal mill, XIV. 12, p. 337). But if we examine the two figures in the foreground, "we shall presently accept this beautiful desolation of landscape with better under. standing.” It is a picture of the Bay of Baiæ ; of the sunshine of the south, that is, and of the beauty of the earth. But also of “the story of Apollo and the Sibyl,” that is, “of wasted splendour, of haggard beauty, and of abiding fear.” For “this Cumæan Sibyl, Deiphobe, was in her youth beloved by Apollo, and when he promised to grant her whatever she would ask, she took up a handful of earth, and asked that she might live for as many years as there were grains of dust in her hand. She obtained her petition, and Apollo would have given her also perpetual youth, in return for her love; but she denied him, and wasted into the long agesknown at last only by her voice. We are thus led to think of her here, as the type of the ruined beauty of Italy; foreshowing, so long ago, her low murmurings of melancholy prophecy, with all the unchanged voices of her sweet waves and mountain echoes.” And there is another lesson of the vanity of human life in the picture still. The fable seems to have made a strong impression on Turner's mind. He had painted Lake Avernus long ago (XIX. 463, p. 647), and he painted it again in “ The Golden Bough” (371, now at Dublin). In that picture, as in this, there is a snake in the foreground among the fairest leafage, a type of the terror, or temptation, which is associated with the lovely landscapes. "In the midst of all the power and beauty of nature, he still saw this deathworm writhing among the weeds. A little thing now, yet enough: Apollo giving love ; but not youth, nor immortality” (Notes on the Turner Gallery, pp. 38-43; Modern Painters, vol. v. pt. ix. ch. xi. SS 12, 26). 486. WINDSOR.