Joseph Mallord William Turner

Figures in a Religious Procession; and Part of a View of Tivoli with the Villa d’Este

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
D15009
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 44 a

Catalogue entry

There can be little doubt that the sketches on this page represent a religious procession, probably witnessed by Turner in Tivoli. The foremost figure on the far left is carrying a crucifix whilst others bear banners or devotional images above their shoulders. The artist appears to have rapidly sketched the lines of robed and cowled figures as they filed slowly past him, annotating his studies with notes on the colourful costumes. A similar study can be seen on folio 26 verso (D14973). Processions of monks, priests and pilgrims were a common sight in nineteenth-century Italy and the ceremonial trappings of Catholicism provided an exotic spectacle for English visitors more used to sober, understated Protestantism.1 Turner may have referenced this sketch for his later oil painting Modern Italy, the Pifferari exhibited 1838 (Glasgow Museums).2 The subject of the picture is the pifferari, musicians who would travel from the mountains during the Christmas season to pay homage to the Virgin Mary. Turner’s depicts them playing in front of a wayside altar within an imaginary landscape based upon Tivoli. On the far right of the composition is a column of pious figures picked out in white, similar to those in this sketch.
Also on this page, in the top left-hand corner, is part of a landscape sketch continued from the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 45 (D15010). The featured building is the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, seen from the Porta del Colle, at the western edge of the town.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

1
See Cecilia Powell, Italy in the Age of Turner: ‘The Garden of the World’, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 1998, p.48.
2
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.374.

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