Joseph Mallord William Turner

Distant Range of Snow-Capped Mountains and Architectural Details of the Apostolic Palace, seen from Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 x 186 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D14970
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 25

Catalogue entry

Turner made a closely detailed visual record of the Loggia of Raphael in the Vatican, which led to the first finished oil painting following his Italian tour, the vast canvas Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).1 It has been widely suggested that he thought of the idea for the picture whilst he was actually sketching in situ.2 However, the precise nature of his studies of the interior, focusing almost exclusively on the first three bays of the loggia, strongly suggests that in fact the artist had already conceived the theme before commencing his sketching campaign and was specifically gathering material with the concept already well advanced in his mind, see folios 13 verso–21 (D14955–D14965). Virtually every element recorded within his drawings was employed within the composition of the finished painting, and there are no sketches extraneous to this purpose. The drawings on this page relate not to the interior, but to the view from the windows of the sixteenth-century loggia, specifically the panorama as seen from the sixth bay.3
As Robert McVaugh first identified, the small study in the bottom left-hand corner represents architectural details of the Apostolic Palace, looking from Raphael’s loggia towards the wing on the opposite side of the Cortile San Damaso. In Rome from the Vatican, this is the building seen through the window arch on the left-hand side of the picture. In particular, Turner has recorded the complex perspective of the view through the arcades into the rooms beyond. Further sketches of the exterior can be found on folio 21 verso (D14966).
The remaining drawing which stretches across the width of the page represents the distant line of the Apennine Mountains to the east of Rome which forms part of the panoramic view seen from the loggia. Turner has noted the snow capping the peaks. The mountains appear above the cityscape along the horizon of the detailed pen-and-ink study for Rome from the Vatican, see the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16368; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 41), as well as within the finished painting. Further studies related to the evolution of Rome from the Vatican can be found on folios 21 verso, and 24–26 (D14966 and D14969–D14972). For a full discussion see folio 14 (D14956).

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
2
See Powell 1987, pp.62 and 116–7, and Hamilton et al. 2009, p.53. Hamilton, for example, has described the studies as ‘far more detailed than [Turner] would reasonably need if he were not sympathetic to, and even complicit in, a complete copying of them’ and has stated that the artist only ‘used a fraction’ of them.
3
See the photograph of this view in Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, New York and London 2008, p.21, pl.7.

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