- Museum number
The Judgement of Midas; centaurs and satyrs sit to left on grassy verge listening to lyre player, ruins scattered around them, arched bridge to right crossing deep gorge with castle in background r. 1814
- Production date
Height: 173 millimetres
Width: 248 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The subject is derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and concerns a music competition between Pan, playing the pipes, and Apollo who waits his turn to play the lyre. When Midas questioned the verdict in favour of Apollo the god retaliated by giving Midas ass’s ears. The incident has been seen as an allegory of the conflict between nature, represented by Pan, and art, in the person of Apollo. Cotman’s composition, with its geometric classical buildings set amongst lush vegetation, could be seen to strive for harmony between the two.
Cotman produced the composition first as an oil painting, which has been dated to 1808-9 (NWHCM : 1951.235.117). This period which coincides with a renewed wave of classicism among his watercolourist colleagues; John Varley’s great essay in this vein, Suburbs of an ancient city was exhibited in 1808 (Tate, London), the year which also saw the reviving of the Sketching Society as ‘The Society for Epic and Pastoral Design’. The drawing, dated 1814, was made in preparation for a soft-ground etching, one of a series of mainly imaginary compositions Cotman made during this decade, but did not publish. Some were issued by Henry Bohn in 1838, but others remained as trial proofs. The scheme provides further evidence of Cotman’s desire to extend his range, and influence, as a painter of pure landscape even while largely involved in his series of topographical prints.
This drawing was included in the 2005 exhibition: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 'John Sell Cotman: The Reeve Collection', for which there is an online exhibition catalogue on the Norwich Castle website [http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Visit_Us/Norwich_Castle/Past_Exhibitions/2005/Cotman_in_the_British_Museum/index.htm].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1980 Jun-Sep, Kenwood, Iveagh Bequest, 'Gaspar Dughet', no. 87
2005 Mar-Jul, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 'John Sell Cotman: The Reeve Collection', no.73
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number