The pairing of art and poetry has a long and storied history – I’ve mentioned before instances where poems are the only record we have left of a painting and poetry that was inspired by art. In 1840, J.M.W. Turner exhibited his masterpiece “Slave-Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)” at the Royal Academy. He paired it with an excerpt from his unfinished poem “Fallacies of Hope” from 1812. Several websites suggest that he did this to try to make more of an impression on Prince Albert, who was speaking at a nearby meeting, and urge him to intensify British abolitionist efforts. Exhibited today, the MFA has the lines of the poem printed on the placard next to the painting. I do not know how Turner originally presented his poem with his painting, but I thought it would be interesting to see it paired on a more equal sizing than the giant painting-tiny print format.
Turner was inspired to write the poem and paint the picture by the story of a slave ship captain who threw sick and dying slaves overboard in the face of an oncoming storm in order to collect the insurance money – as he would receive no compensation for slaves who died enroute, only those “lost at sea.”