Poem of The Epicurean
JMW Turner provided four vignettes for Thomas Moore’s prose poem The Epicurean, a Tale; and Alciphron, a Poem. Although Turner produced a number of watercolour drawings for The Epicurean, only four designs were engraved for publication. These were all engraved by Edward Goodall and were the last of Turner’s vignettes to be published in his lifetime.
Thomas Moore in the preface to the illustrated edition of The Epicurean published by John Macrone, London 1839
According to Meredith Gamer at the Tate:
The Epicurean is at once a seductive oriental fantasy and a morality tale, which perhaps accounts for much of its appeal to nineteenth-century audiences. Moore’s story purports to be a translation of an ancient manuscript. It tells of Alciphron, a young, hedonistic Greek, who travels to Alexandria to find the secret of eternal life. There he falls in love with the beautiful Alethe, only to see her die a martyr for her Christian faith.
Three unpublished finished designs for The Epicurean remained in the Turner Bequest. In these works, the ethereal technique and pastel palette of these works combine with Moore’s fantastical subjects to create images of remarkable delicacy and imagination. Their fine quality led E.T. Cook to include them in his selection of Hidden Treasures of the National Gallery (published 1905). The author concluded, with mild but rightful indignation,
‘I cannot conceive why none of these is considered worthy of any better place than a brown-paper parcel in a tin box.’