TURNER, Joseph Mallord William
(b. 1775, London, d. 1851, Chelsea)

Peace - Burial at Sea

Oil on canvas, 87 x 86,5 cm
Tate Gallery, London

In the same Royal Academy exhibition as his Snow Storm, Turner showed a pair of pictures, Peace - Burial at Sea and War, the Exile and the Rock Limpet. The first is a haunting tribute to David Wilkie, who had died and been buried at sea off Gibraltar the previous year, on his way back from a visit to the Holy Land. The other, ostensibly of the exiled Napoleon on his island prison of St Helena, standing against a sky bloodshot as if with the carnage of his wartime campaigns, alluded to Wilkie's close friend Haydon. Haydon was famous both for his own pictures of Napoleon and for the egotism, paranoia and constant warfare with colleagues, critics and patrons that had by this time brought him to a state of professional exile.

Peace is more than a farewell to a friend: it signals approval for the exemplary harmony in which Wilkie had lived. Its companion piece is a warning and a rebuke. It is characteristic of the painter's mental state - his basic belief was formed by deism - that the painting he called Peace depicts a burial: that of his famous fellow painter David Wilkie.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 6 minutes):
Franz Schubert: Du Bist Die Ruh' (Thou Art The Rest), Franz Liszt's transcription