by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Exhibited 1814. Oil on canvas, 1485 x 2410 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain (Accession no. N00495. Accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1984. In situ at Petworth House). Click on image to enlarge it.
Commentary from Tate Britain Online (2004)
Turner took the subject of this painting from a series of mythological tales called Metamorphoses by the Latin poet Ovid. A shepherd named Appullus has been turned into an olive tree as a punishment for mocking some dancing nymphs. Turner has invented a mythical wife for him, named Apulia. While looking for her vanished husband, she is shown the olive tree on which his name is carved.
The composition is taken almost literally from a Landscape with Jacob and Laban by the seventeenth-century artist Claude Lorrain. This was in the collection of Lord Egremont at Petworth, which Turner knew well.
Last modified 14 May 2016