Turner was inspired to create this work upon hearing of a case involving a slave ship which, in 1789, had thrown 133 slaves overboard in order to collect insurance on them. He exhibited it first at a meeting of the British Anti-Slavery Society. While the fierce sunset and the stormy sea seizes the viewer's attention first, a ship is also notably visible in the distant, its sails furled up to weather the typhoon. The most significant part of the work is in the foreground: in the roaring waters, body parts of slaves can be seen strewn about, being torn at by fish and sea monsters. In these ways, the work combines the monstrosity of man and the monstrosity of nature, a cornerstone of Romanticism.
paintinglandscapemaritimeslaverysunsetabolitionistoil on canvasromanticism