The story of Germanicus had long been popular with history painters as an ‘exemplum virtutis’ (virtuous example) of a dutiful wife. Turner’s verses for this painting show that he saw the tragic episode as heralding the decline of Imperial Rome. Here he reconstructs the city in elaborate detail, though in fact Agrippina had landed at Brundisium (Brindisi) rather than Rome.
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus
The EY Exhibition: Late Turner - Painting Set Free
91 x 122cm
Oil on canvas
Date of work
Original: Oil on canvas 91 x 122 cm Tate. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Joseph Mallord William Turner was born in London; he remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life despite dominating British landscape painting throughout the first half of the 19th century. He established a reputation in the Royal Academy, first as a topographical watercolourist and then within a few years as a painter of sublime and historical landscapes. From the mid-1790s he settled on the routine he maintained for much of his life: touring in summer and working in the studio in the winter months. He opened his own gallery and had many patrons and admirers as well as detractors. After his death a large body of his works in oil and watercolour was given to the British nation, with many on show at Tate Britain.