Joseph Mallord William Turner

Antiquities at Pola

c.1817–18

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 269 x 426 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17184
Turner Bequest CXCVI T

Catalogue entry

As suggested by Finberg,1 this loose colour study with slight pencil indications relates to the engraving Antiquities at Pola (no Tate impression; several of various states at the British Museum, London), the frontispiece of Picturesque Views of the Antiquities of Pola in Istria, a book by Thomas Allason (1790–1852) published by John Murray in 1819. As discussed below, it varies in minor respects from the much more detailed watercolour (private collection)2 on which the print was based.
As Andrew Wilton has noted, the subject is comparable to a number based on topographical views of Italian scenes made before Turner’s first visit to Italy in 1819, particularly those for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy from Hakewill’s own drawings;3 see Nicola Moorby’s introduction to the ‘First Italian Tour 1819–20’ section of this catalogue.4 Although Turner subsequently travelled extensively in Italy, this prefigured the method he employed when later commissioned to make topographical views of places further afield where he never toured, including elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Greece, the Middle East and India, when he work from drawings supplied by those who had been there in person.5
In the present case, the site was nearer to what would become familiar territory, being the city of Pola (or Pula) in Istria, part of modern Croatia on the opposite coast of the Adriatic from Venice (where Turner first went in 1819), and the site of various impressive Roman monuments.6 In the event, he never visited Pola, and as with the Hakewill project, he was reliant on the author’s drawings. Like Hakewill, Allason was an architect who had visited the sites in question and made his own detailed studies.7 Cecilia Powell has suggested that Turner’s complex reimaginings of classical townscapes in paintings such as The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, exhibited in 1817 (Tate N00499),8 showed him as the ‘ideal artist’ to make a ‘visual synthesis’ to introduce Allason’s book, in the well-established manner of a capriccio of disparate elements.9
1
See Finberg 1909, I, p.
2
Without an individual entry in Wilton 1979, but see p.381; see also Upstone 1989, p.6.
3
Wilton 1979, pp.381–3 nos.700–717.
4
See also Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.13–19.
5
Including Wilton 1979, pp.444–7 nos.1210–1235 (selected subjects), pp.447–50 nos.1236–1263, and p.455 no.1291–1297.
6
See Powell 1984, pp.39–40.
7
Ibid., p.39.
8
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.100–01 no.135, pl.137 (colour).
9
Powell 1984, p.39, 41.
10
Ibid., p.40.
11
Ibid., p.41; see also John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, p.71 note 4.
12
See Edward Yardley, ‘The Turner Collector: “That Munificent Gentleman” – James Rivington Wheeler’, Turner Studies, vol.6 no.2, Winter 1986, pp.56, 57 ill.10, 58, 60 note 24.
13
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.I, London 1908, p.86 no.162.
14
Powell 1984, p.41 ill.3 (reversed).
15
Ibid., p.42 ill.6.
16
Ibid., p.41 ill.4.
17
Ibid., p.42 ill.5.
18
Ibid., p.43.
19
Ibid., p.41.
20
Ibid., p.43.
21
Butlin and Joll 1984, pp.94–6 no.131, pl.133 (colour).

Matthew Imms
June 2016

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