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As Cecilia Powell first identified, the subject of this rough outline sketch is an interior view of the Second Temple of Hera (formerly known as the Temple of Neptune), one of the three celebrated fifth-century Greek ruins at Paestum.1 Turner’s viewpoint is from the pronaos (inner portico) at the eastern end of the building looking towards the surviving columns of the inner cella. Just visible on the left-hand side of the composition is the relative position the adjacent Temple of Hera (commonly but erroneously known as the Basilica). Powell has suggested that Turner’s approach reflects his knowledge of the dramatic interior views of the temples by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) which he would have seen in the collection of his friend, John Soane.2 He had already used one of these drawings as the basis for a perspective diagram for his Royal Academy lectures (see Tate D17072; Turner Bequest CXCV 102).3 For further interior views see folios 33–33 verso and 45 (D15972–D15973 and D15996; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 31–31a and 43). For a more detailed discussion and other sketches of the temples see folio 31 (D15968; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 29).
Powell 1984, p.425.
Powell 1987, pp. and 204 note 68. See also the plates for Différentes Vues de Pesto, 1778, reproduced in Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, nos.851–71, pp.666–79.
See Powell 1987, p. 83, and Helen Dorey, John Soane & JMW Turner: Illuminating a Friendship, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London 2007, p.24.