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Meleager and Atalanta
The Trustees of the British Museum
Richard Earlom (1743-1822) after Wilson
Meleager and Atalanta
Published 20 September 1771
Mezzotint with etching
466 x 556 mm
18 3/8 x 21 7/8 in.
2006,U.403
E23
In a clearing before a waterfall a group of men surround a giant boar on the right and Meleager, on horseback, drives a spear into the beast. Anceus lies fallen next to it but Atalanta, with two female attendants, is aiming an arrow from the far left. A castle and aqueduct can be seen in the distance.
Acquired 2006
Lettered below the image with artists' and publisher's names, title and further line:
[1] Upper left: R. Wilson pinxt.
[2] Upper centre: Robt. Sayer Excudit
[3] Upper right: R. Earlom sculp.
[4] Centre: 'MELEAGER and ATALANTA | From an ORIGINAL PICTURE in the Possession of Mr. Sayer. | See Ovids Metamors. Book VIII. Pa. 54',
[5] Lower left, publication line: 'London, Printed for Robt. Sayer, Map & Printseller, No. 53 in Fleet Street.
[6] Published as the Act directs Sepr. 20. 1771'
The subject is taken from the Roman poet, Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-AD 17/18) known as Ovid. The lovers Meleager and Atalanta killed a huge boar sent by the goddess Diana to devastate the countryside of Calydon. Meleager presented the hide to Atalanta but his uncles, the sons of Thestius, took it from her, whereupon he killed them, leading to his own death (Metamorphoses Book VIII, lines 260-546).
D167 Study of an antique Altar, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
E46 William Woollett and Benjamin Pouncy after Wilson, Meleager and Atalanta, 1779, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven and other impressions
E55 William Woollett and Benjamin Pouncy after Wilson, Meleager and Atalanta, 1794, Royal Academy of Arts, London and other impressions
E72/32 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, The Murder, The British Museum
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P163 Meleager and Atalanta, Tate, London
NWD406 Ascribed to John Hamilton Mortimer after Wilson, Meleager and Atalanta
The first recorded owner of P163 Meleager and Atalanta, Tate, London, was the print and map publisher, Robert Sayer, who commissioned Richard Earlom to produce the present mezzotint. Earlom was an established draughtsman and printmaker already recognised for his technical ingenuity and facility with different print techniques. Charlotte Topsfield has noted how in the present instance the rich tonal variations that can be achieved through the mezzotint technique are particularly well suited to express the dramatic lighting, the harsh crags and cascade of Wilson's composition. Sayer went on publish engravings by Woollett and Pouncy in 1779 and 1794, testaments to the enduring popularity of the subject.
Edwards 1808, p. 88;; Grant 1926-47, vol. 1, p. 60; WGC pp. 42, 166, under pl. 25b; Simon 1979; Simon 1981; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 288 (Cardiff impression)
01/06/2017