The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). Exhibited 1817. Oil on canvas, 1702 x 2388 mm. Courtesy of Tate Britain (Accession no. NO0499. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856.) Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from Tate Britain Online (2010)

Claude Lorrain was Turner's favourite old master painter. This is one of his greatest essays in Claude's style. It is part of a pair of paintings showing the rise and fall of a great empire; here, Carthage's decline is symbolised by the setting sun.

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. Today, the other half of the pair Dido building Carthage; or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire hangs, at Turner's request, alongside a painting by Claude in the National Gallery.

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Last modified 14 May 2016