Skip to main content



CAT 131. E. Radclyffe after Claude. Europa. From the picture in the Royal Collection (Coast View with the Rape of Europa, 1667). London: James S. Virtue. Published in The Art-Journal, 1859. Melville Chapin Collection.

This Coast View that E. Radclyffe engraved for The Art-Journal in 1859 has much in common with The Beacon Tower that Radclyffe engraved for the same journal in 1861. Each reproduces a seaside scene by Claude Lorrain from the English Royal Collection. I was tempted to catalog this engraving with the Four Engraved Seaports in which The Beacon Tower appears, but the figures that are present on the shore of this work (and in its title) place this work more properly in the realm of Claude’s mythological subjects. Moreover, this is one of the most revered of his mythological paintings in his late, mature style. 

Claude’s Coast View with the Rape of Europa (LV 136) was painted in 1667, three years after he had painted The Enchanted Castle and the Cephalus and Procris that Melville owned in the engravings by Woollett and Browne, respectively. This painting was Claude’s fourth version of same subject (as was also the case with the 1664 version of Cephalis and Procris Reunited by Diana). His literary source for the Rape of Europa was, again, Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Each of his four paintings depicts the shoreline from a similar angle. This last of the four is more restrained in tone and in its depiction of the figures. When Ratclyffe’s engraving was reproduced in London’ s Art-Journal in 1859, the accompanying commentary called the painting, in Buckingham Palace, “one of the most beautiful works of Claude for richness of color and luminous qualities” (see fig 1).


CAT 130 fig 1 Claude Coast Scene with Rape of Europa 1667 Buckingham Palace.jpg

Figure 1. Claude Lorrain. Coast View with the Rape of Europa, 1667. Buckingham Palace, London.

Dullea titled this work Marine View: Rape of Europa. He noted that “this composition was evidently a great favorite with the painter” since “it is practically identical with his etching of some five-and-twenty years before” and resulted in more than one painting. Dullea indicated that the 1667 version at Buckingham Palace (LV 136) was “a replica” of the canvas that Claude painted for Pope Alexander VII in Rome (also LV 136) and was later acquired by Count Issoupoff (Apppendix C). Dullea mentioned that another painting of the same subject, this one deriving from LV 111, had “formerly belonged to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and was engraved by Vivares” (54). Dullea in his list of the Liber Veritatis drawings in Appendix B again relates LV 111 to the painting formerly owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds and LV 136 to those belonging to  Count Issoupoff and Buckingham Palace. Claude’s etching of The Rape of Europa is listed as no. 22 and dated it 1634 in Dullea’s “List of Claude’s Etchings” in Appendix D.

Although all of the above information would presumably have been of interest to Melville as a collector late in life, he might have been most interested in Dullea’s reproduction of Marine View: Rape of Europa (fig. 2). Dullea classified that as an 1658 Liber Veritatis drawing with which Claude had authenticated yet another version of the Rape of Europa he had painted on canvas, the one in the collection of a Mr. Morrison in England (LV 144 in Appendix B).

130 fig 2 crop.jpg

Figure 2. Claude Lorrain. The Rape of Europa, drawing no. 144 in the Liber Veritatis. On page 54 in Melville’s copy of Owen Dullea, Claude Gellée Le Lorrain, 1887 (Sealts no. 563).

This 1658 Liber drawing by Claude has the same curve of the shoreline that we see in his 1667 painting and Radclyffe’s 1859 engraving but the shoreline here is much more populated by miscellaneous people and cattle. Similarly, there are many more buildings clustered to the right of the central tree than we see in the 1667 painting at Buckingham Palace from which Melville’s engraving derives. These elements alone show that extent to which Claude, in his final painting of The Rape of Europa, stripped the primary landscape elements to their essentials. The commentator in The Art Journal did declare that the figures with which Claude populated this seacoast are no better than “those of his successor, rival, and far greater artist, our own Turner” (296). Melville had many engravings after Turner by which he could test the Journal’s compound assertion, including his two engravings after The Golden Bough, which also features mythological figures near a liquid shore (CAT numbers to be assigned; see CAT 127, fig. 5).

The commentator in The Art-Journal would presumably have agreed with me in cataloging Radclyffe’s engraving among the artist’s mythological scenes rather than his seaports. He tartly observed that “Claude, by bringing the nearer ship so close in-shore, has not proved himself, even in theory, a skillful pilot. . . . A three-masted vessel of such a size . . . would require a greater draught of water, to prevent her grounding, than she could expect to have where she lies” (296). Melville, as a sailor himself, no doubt observed that anomaly. As an author, he is certain also to have perceived the mythological element of Claude’s subject, having written in Moby-Dick of “the white bull Jupiter swimming away with ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns” (NN MD 548).

In the mythological story told by Ovid in his Metamorphosis, the god Jupiter, enraptured by the sight of Europa, a Phoenician queen, transforms himself into a white bull so gracious in demeanor that Europa agrees to be carried out into the sea by this powerful creature who does indeed, as Melville noted, ravish her. Claude’s treatment of this scene in each of its variations avoids any of the open eroticism in which Peter Paul Rubens, for example, had followed that of Titian when painting his own 1628-29 copy of The Rape of Europa that Titian painted for King Philip IV of Spain in 1562, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid (fig. 3).

CAT 130 fig 3 Rubens after TitianThe Rape of Europa 1628-1629 prado.jpg

Figure 3. Jean Paul Rubens after Titian. The Rape of Europa, oil on canvas, 1628-29. Prado Museum, Madrid.

Rather than the ravishment, Claude emphasized the mystery about to transpire; rather than the flesh of the figures, he gives us the expanse of the landscape; rather than the outer action, he suggests the inner movement into something unknown; rather than the eroticism, he gives us the prelude to the transformational. The stirring of the surf along the inner edge of the shore, the left hand of Europe grasping the right horn of the bull, the one tall ship closer to the shore than it could possibly be while remaining afloat—all of these suggest an inner surge of a quiet, mysterious, expanding selfhood that seems to pervade the psyches of Psyche, Cephalus and Procris, and Europa in the three engravings Melville acquired after Claude’s late, mythological paintings of the mid-1660s. One senses a similar surge of expanding psychic selfhood in the latent energies that manifest themselves in Melville’s depiction of the inner life of Urania in “After the Pleasure Party,” one of the most ambitious poems in Timoleon, published shortly before his death in 1891.

Claude’s varied depictions of the Coast View with the Rape of Europa on canvas, in drawings, and in etching inspired J. M. W. Turner from the beginning to the end of his career. Claude’s pictorial engagement with Europa encounter on the coastline inspired Turner’s inset drawing for the frontispiece of the Liber Studiorum, the sequence of seventy-one prints that Turner published between 1807 and 1819 in direct emulation of Claude’s Liber Veritatis (fig. 4). One who knows Ovid’s story clearly sees the bull taking Europa out into the sea. One who knows Claude’s classical landscape ingredients well will see clustered together all the elements Claude had mastered in which young Turner hoped to match him over the course of his own Liber project: the figure in the landscape, the shoreline and the sea, the mythical and the mountainous, the generic and the epic. Turner emulated Claude in medium as well as subject by etching much of this print himself, in conjunction with J. C. Easling.

CAT 130 fig 4 Turner frontispiece to liber studiorum tate.jpg

Figure 4. J. M. W. Turner and J. C. Easling. Frontispiece to the The Liber Studiorum, etching printed in brown ink with watercolor additions, c. 1810-11. Published with the first four parts of The Liber Studiorum in 1812. Tate Gallery London.

Melville would have known of Turner’s Liber Studiorum as tribute and challenge to Claude’s Liber Variorum simply from skimming his own copy of the New York edition of Cosmo Monkhouse’s book about Turner published by Scribner and Welford in 1882 (Sealts no. 365). Much of chapter 5 is devoted to the Liber Studiorum in which Turner “pitted not only his skill, but his style and range of art against Claude” (54 in NY edition). One way in which Turner emulated and outpaced Claude over the course of his entire career was the degree to which he simplified and purified the pictorial ingredients of his earlier career. Turner’s radical evolution in pictorial expression and psychological penetration is seen by comparing any of his Liber Studiorum etchings between 1807 and 1819 with any of his Royal Academy paintings of the 1840s. Much more than in Claude’s Enchanted Castle or Reunion of Cephalis and Procris of 1666 or his Rape of Europa to 1667, Turner in Venice the Dogana or Peace—Burial at Sea or Snow-Storm Steam-Boat, all of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1842, immerse us in the retinal, emotional, or visceral essence of a scene with the absolute minimum of the geographical, topographical, historical marker to let us know where we are or what we are seeing. (Melville acquired all three 1842 paintings in engravings from the 1850s; see the sample for chapter 7 on the opening page of this site and figure 6 in the Parting Thought after CAT 110).Turner’s radical indistinctness in the 1840s was even stronger in many of the unexhibited and often unfinished canvases that never left his studio as Turner continued to paint throughout the 1840s.

One of the most striking of the unexhibited or unfinished works remaining in Turner’s Queen Anne Street studio at the time of his death in 1851 was the Europa and the Bull (c. 1840-50) now in the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati (fig. 5).

CAT 130 fig 5 Turner, Europa and the Bull, c. 1840-1850. Taft Museum.jpg

Figure 5. J. M. W. Turner. Europa and the Bull, oil on canvas, c. 1840-1850. Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Many of the essential ingredients of Claude’s classical landscapes (and of Turner’s early career) are still present: the figures in the landscape, the coastline and the sea, the epic and generic, and even the mountainous and the architectural (except that the architecture in this case is that of the landscape itself, not of man’s erections). Here, however, they appear in a pictorial style that anticipates those of the impressionist, symbolist, expressionist, and abstractionist styles that were to emerge across Europe and in the United States over the course of the next century. In this painting Turner left us with us the ravishment of color not of the female form; with the canvas itself rather than the natural landscape as the center of the primary action; and with the hand, the brush, and the painter’s own mythic imagination rather than the heads, the torsos, and limbs of his primary figural subjects as the defining transformative agents.

Melville would not have been able to see Europa and the Bull or any other unexhibited Turner canvas in London in 1849 without having visited Turner’s private studio on Queen Anne Street. There is no trace, or even suggestion, of such a visit in the journal he kept during his six weeks in the city. But four Londoners with whom he spent considerable time during his last week in the city—the poet Samuel Rogers, the publisher John Murray, the painter Charles Robert Leslie, and the author Richard Ford—were extremely well acquainted with Turner and the contents of his private gallery. Rogers and Murray had not only been intimately involved with Turner’s most ambitious and influential book illustration projects in the 1830s (those for Rogers’s Italy in 1830 and Poems in 1834 and for Murray’s sixteen-volume edition of the Life and Works of Lord Byron in the mid-1830s); they had also coordinated young Melville’s most stimulating social activities during his last week in town, the two “Paradise of Bachelors” dinners orchestrated by Murray at Elm Court and the Erechtheum Club and the two breakfasts in Rogers’s home and private galley, all of which occurred between Wednesday, December 19, and Sunday, December 23.

The painter Charles Robert Leslie was one of the convivial companions with whom Melville had “a glorious time” until “about midnight” at the Erechtheum Club before making his second visit to Rogers’s private gallery and breakfast table the next morning. Leslie, who had been Turner’s close colleague for four decades at the Royal Academy, had been “extremely ugent” for Melville to “spend Christmas with him” at his home in St. John’s Wood. In addition, Leslie was the only person in London besides Turner himself who had a key to Turner’s private galley. Melville would have loved to accept Leslie’s invitation but he had already promised his wife Elizabeth in New York, who was pregnant with their second child, that he would sailing home from Portsmouth on Christmas Day (NN J 42- 46, 366-71, 375-76; Wallace, Melville and Turner, 300-06).

Richard Ford, another of the companions with whom Melville had “a glorious time” until “about midnight” at the Erechtheum Club, was an amateur painter, a connoisseur of engravings, and author of Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Spain (1845). Ford’s thirty-page account of the paintings at the Prado in Madrid was a delicious blend of wit, warmth, and precision. Ford  characterizes Spagnoletto (the painter who will praise his own Flaying of Bartholomew in Melville’s “At the Hostelry”) as “the painter of the bigot, inquisitor, and executioner.” Ford uses Rubens’s copy of Titian’s Rape of Europa at the Prado (fig. 3 above) to contrast “the coarse, the physical, and sensual in the Fleming” with “the elegant, intellectual voluptuousness of the Italian.” Ford declares that the “glorious Italian Sunset, with beautiful water” in Claude’s painting of Tobit and the Angel at the Prado (fig. 2 in the introduction to this section) is “as pure as the day [it] was painted” (Ford, 2:755, 764, 767). But Ford knew as much about J. M. W. Turner as about Italian Old Masters. He was not only a collector of Turner watercolors; Ford had been warmly invited by Turner himself to visit his private gallery in August 1845, when Turner’s first two whaling oils, Whalers and The Whale Ship, had just returned from their exhibition at London’s Royal Academy (Wallace, Melville and Turner, 301).

If Melville did not see Turner’s private gallery in 1849, he certainly would have heard quite a bit about it, including the presence of the four whaling oils Turner had exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1845 and 1846. At his visit to the Vernon Gallery in December he had seen at least one exhibited painting in Turner’s powerfully indistinct, late style, the Venice—The Dogana from 1842 that he later acquired in the engraving by J. T. Willmore (see fig. 6 in our Parting Thought on Italian Renaissance Artists). These ingredients alone would have contributed the Turneresque aesthetic of the Spouter-Inn painting as Ishmael was soon to describe it at the beginning of chapter 3 in Moby-Dick (NN MD 12-13).

Turner’s Europe and the Bull was not included among the paintings from the Turner Bequest that Melville would have seen during his visit to the “Turner and Vernon Galleries” when he returned to London in 1857, but he would have seen a very wide selection of paintings in Turner's late style from the 1840s, many of which he was to be adding to his own print collection. By the end of his life, when he was publishing “After the Pleasure Party” and his “Fruit of Travel Long Ago” poems in Timoleon, and continuing to revise the colloquy among Old Master painters in “At the Hostelry,” the fifteen prints he had acquired by and after Claude Lorrain and the thirty-two prints he had acquired by and after J. M. W. Turner gave him a very rich sense of the way Claude had simplified and purified his own landcape style by the time he painted The Enchanted Castle and Europa and the Bull in the mid-1660s, opening the way for Turner to similarly transform his own landscape style from the Liber Studiorum drawings from 1807 through 1819 on through to the powerfully indistinct landscapes and seascapes of the 1840s.