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Despite the wide range of subject matter represented within this sketchbook, Turner labelled it the ‘St Peter’s’ sketchbook, a title which derives from a series of seven studies recording scenes from the interior of the famous basilica, see folios 17 verso, 84 and 85–87 (D16189, D16309, and D16311–D16315; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 17a, 83, and 84–86). These sketches, executed swiftly in the relative gloom of the church, are principally concerned with exploring the complex perspective of the architectural arrangement of the building, looking down through the side aisles and nave towards the transepts and the crossing. As Cecilia Powell has written they ‘vividly record the experience of being in the huge, interlocking spaces of a vast building’.1 Turner may have referred to them when painting a finished watercolour for Walter Fawkes, Interior of St. Peter’s, Rome 1821 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York).2
Powell has identified this inverted sketch as a view of the interior from a position to the left of the apse as you are looking down the nave, near to the Monument of Clement X. The sketch depicts part of the crossing opening into the south transept beyond. The decorative scheme on the left-hand side of the page represents the Altar of St Peter restoring Tabitha to life, a mosaic above an altar which is flanked by two granite columns.3
Powell 1987, p..
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.724; reproduced in colour in Cara Dufour Denison, Peter Dreyer, William M. Griswold et al., From Mantegna to Picasso: Drawings from the Thaw Collection at the Pierpoint Morgan Library, New York, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1996, p.107 no.52
See http://www.saintpetersbasilica.org/Altars/StPeter–Tabitha/StPeter–Tabitha.htm, accessed January 2009.