Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior of the Pantheon, Rome

1819

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

Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 189 x 114 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16273
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 64 a

Catalogue entry

The Pantheon is the oldest surviving domed structure in Rome and one of the city’s most famous buildings. Once an ancient temple, it was later consecrated as a Christian church, an event which helped to ensure its preservation. In addition to its architectural significance, the building houses some notable tombs, including those of painters Annibale Carraci and Raphael. The interior had long been a popular subject for artists since, unlike cruciform churches, the entire sense of the circular building could be expressed within a single view.1 Turner’s viewpoint for this sketch is one of the six side apses encircling the perimeter and his view is bisected by one of two huge granite columns.2 He has recorded the decorative scheme of the interior at every level from floor to ceiling, including the patterning of the marble floor, the niches containing statues spaced at intervals between the apses, the false windows within the frieze below the dome, the coffered ceiling and the oculus in the centre at the top, the only source of light for the building. The choice of another angle would only have yielded a similar view and the wealth of detail included here rendered further study of the interior unnecessary.
For a general discussion and other sketches of the Pantheon see folio 29 (D16208; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 28).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

1
For example Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), etchings from Le Antichità Romane I, 1756 and Veduta di Roma, published 1778, see Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, nos.163 reproduced p.184 and 957 reproduced p.733; Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691/2–1765), Interior of the Pantheon, pen and ink and watercolour on paper (Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London), and Heneage Finch (1786–1859), Interior of the Pantheon, Rome, watercolour (Tate, T09835).
2
Powell 1984, p.115.

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