Joseph Mallord William Turner’s painting “Dido Building Carthage; Or The Rise Of The Carthaginian Empire”, produced in 1815, is of great importance to art history. In this work, Turner takes inspiration from the classical landscapes of Claude Lorrain while depicting a scene based on Virgil’s Aeneid that portrays the rise of the ancient city-state of Carthage. It was originally an oil on canvas painting and it currently resides within the National Gallery in London.
The beautiful colours and compositional organization in this artwork demonstrate how Turner reinterpreted Virgil’s epic Latin poem. This allowed him to create works that celebrated themes and stories comtemplating destiny and human ambition like “Dido Building Carthage” which features Dido, a figure on the left in blue and white clothes, directing the workers that construct her new home.
Continuing with paintings inspired by epic poems is Theodore Rousseau’s “The Village Of Becquigny” painted sometime between 1857 and 1864. In this masterpiece Rousseau captures rustic scenes of everyday life that reference his French roots captured from nature through his own eyes rather than referring to an origin story or epic poem. It offers insight into real life in rural France during mid 19th century from various aspects such as architecture and plantlife as it demonstrates an agrarian lifestyle in all its beauty.