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Meleager and Atalanta
The Trustees of the British Museum
William Woollett (1735-1785) and Benjamin Thomas Pouncy after Wilson
Meleager and Atalanta
1779 (undated)
Etching
442 x 552 mm
17 3/8 x 21 3/4 in.
1978,U.299
E46A
A wild landscape with a castle and aqueduct in the distance is shown against a stormy sky. In a clearing before a waterfall a group of men surround an enormous boar and Meleager, on horseback, drives a spear into it. His colleague, Anceus lies fallen and Atalanta, with two female attendants, aims an arrow at the beast from the far left.
Acquired 1978
Scratched below the image:
[1] Lower left: 'Painted by R Wilson'
[2] Lower right: 'The Figures by W. Woollett. the Landscape by B T Pouncy'
The subject is taken from the Roman poet, Publius Ovidius Naso (20 March 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 the Altar introduced in the Composition 'Meleager and Atlanta', Victoria & Albert Museum, London (Dyce.661)
E23 Richard Earlom, Meleager and Atalanta, 1771, The British Museum (2006,U.403) and other impressions
E55 William Woollett and Benjamin Pouncy after Wilson, Meleager and Atalanta, 1794, Royal Academy of Arts, London (PL006185) and other impressions
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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 a mezzotint after the painting, published in 1771 (E23). Sayer went on publish the present engraving by Woollett and Pouncy in 1779 and a further one by the same printmakers in 1794 (E55), testaments to the enduring popularity of the subject. He paid John Hamilton Mortimer to replace some of the figures with his own, to the understandable annoyance of Wilson. Probably at the latter's insistence the distinction between the artists was recorded in the lettering of this and other later states of this print.
Fagan 1885, p. 46, cat. 103, 2nd State; WGC pp. 42, 166, under pl. 25b; Simon 1979; Simon 1981; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 289 (a later impression, British Museum, 1842,1112.36
A later impression with different lettering distinguishing the roles of Wilson (landscape) and John Hamilton Mortimer (figures) is at the British Museum (1842,1112.36). This was exhibited at the Tercentenary Exhibition (108)
Etched state before engraving and publication line added