Ancient Italy — Ovid Banished From Rome

oil painting depicting Ovid being dragged by Roman soldiers at shore, with sun setting at center

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)
Ancient Italy — Ovid Banished From Rome, exhibited 1838
Oil on canvas
37 1/4 x 49 3/16 in. (94.6 x 125 cm)
Private collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY


This work treats the ancient poet Ovid’s purported exile from Rome, reconstructed here as a panoply of temples, triumphal arches, and statuary from different periods of the city’s history. Turner leaves Ovid’s identity within the image ambiguous: he could be the figure being arrested in the foreground, or he could be absent altogether, already banished or deceased (a tomb at lower left bears his full name). In any case, with the hazy scene and setting sun, Turner evokes the feeling of a final farewell to Rome and its golden age.

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