i still remember the day i fell in love with this painting. we were in art theory and methodology and a girl in my class was presenting her research on this work. at the time i was working on my research for the raft of the medusa, so images of the sea and slavery were near and dear to my heart. the girl told us the story behind the image: a slavedriver was transporting slaves, and decided to throw over the sick and dying during a storm to collect the insurance money. what once seemed like a beautiful yet banal work revealed itself as the magnificently macabre painting that it is. when you look a little bit closer, you can see broken shackles and random limbs dispersed throughout the water. the fiery sky seems to reinforce the tumultuous scene and the rough water is a backdrop embodying the abolitionist movement.
when j.m.w. turner exhibited the work in 1840, he included a poem that he wrote:
the poem further enhances the painting, lyrically describing the horrific event. i have yet to see this painting in person, but am so excited to visit it at the museum of fine arts in boston this december!