A design for the obverse of the Turner medal, 1858
Daniel Maclise RA (1806 - 1870)
RA Collection: Art
A finely drawn profile portrait of J. M. W. Turner in old age, produced as a design for the Royal Academy's Turner medal. This prize for landscape painting was established in 1857 in memory of Turner, following the terms of the artist's will. It has been suggested that Daniel Maclise based this portrait on Turner's death mask.
On 11 January 1860, the Council of the Royal Academy agreed to offer Maclise some financial reward for his work but he refused stating that he 'had never thought one moment of making any charge and that I shall be more than repaid by having this slight service accepted by the Academy'. Instead, he was presented with a silver vase after a design by Cellini at the General Assembly which took place on 6 March 1860. Maclise later formally presented this drawing and another (08/2805) to the Royal Academy. He wrote on 13 March 1861 asking J. P. Knight to present his designs to the President and Council, 'because there is a kind of fitness in the drawings from which the medal was engraved being in possession of the Academy'.
Following years of deliberation over the will of J. M. W. Turner, the Royal Academy eventually received a sum of £20,000 from his estate in 1856. The Academy's Council Minutes record that it was agreed the funds should be used "in conformity with the will of the late J. M. W. Turner" for "a medal to be called 'Turner's medal' equal in value to the Gold medal now given by the Royal Academy be awarded to the best landscape painting at the Biennial Distribution".
Producing a medal for this award, however, proved to be a lengthy process. Initially, in November 1856, the Council resolved that the design for the medal should be decided by a public competition, with prizes awarded for the best and the second best designs. However, in February the following year, they revoked their original decision as it was deemed "on many accounts objectionable". Instead the Council requested the Academician and sculptor E. H. Baily be invited to provide a design for the medal.
However, despite producing two different models, E. H. Baily's designs were not considered good enough by Council. On 3rd December 1857 RA minutes record that William Dyce had put forward an alternative design for the obverse, with a portrait of Turner shown in profile. This design being accepted, all Academicians were then invited to produce a design for the reverse of the medal which, it was suggested, should be a "composition having reference to the purpose of the premium...It is suggested that the Design need not be elaborate, but should suffice to convey the intended idea". As only one drawing was received in response to this request, William Mulready, William Dyce and Daniel Maclise were subsequently asked to submit their ideas for the medal.
Maclise's design was selected and he was at work on the finished designs by November 1859. Leonard Wyon's impression of the medal was approved in December and struck shortly afterwards. The Royal Academy collection also includes an engraving of the design by Wyon, Dyce's finished design for the reverse of the medal and a related sketch by Mulready. It is possible that Maclise's chosen design for the obverse is based on the original drawing of Turner by Dyce.
On 11th January 1860, the Council of the Royal Academy agreed to offer Maclise some financial reward for his work but he refused to accept. Instead, he was presented with a silver vase after a design by Cellini on 6th March 1860. Maclise later formally presented his designs for the medal to the Royal Academy. He wrote that he was giving the drawing to the institution "because there is a kind of fitness in the drawings from which the medal was engraved being in possession of the Academy".
After Leonard Charles Wyon
The Turner Medal as executed: reverse and obverse
Leonard Charles Wyon
Royal Academy Turner medal, 1851
William Mulready RA
A design for the reverse of a Royal Academy medal, May 1858
Pen and ink on cream wove paper (back of an envelope addressed to mulready)
Daniel Maclise RA
A design for the reverse of the Turner medal, 1858
Pencil on card
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