Joseph Mallord William Turner

?Italian Ruins, with a Dome in the Distance

c.1828–43

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 138 x 185 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D33728
Turner Bequest CCCXLI 49

Catalogue entry

The subject is unidentified, but may be Italian; see the Introduction to this section for further brief discussion and dating. There are substantial arched and vaulted ruins in the foreground and middle distance, apparently with at least one intact dome beyond. What may be a note of the place name at the bottom left is scrawled and unfortunately illegible.
Technical notes:
This drawing was made on one sixteenth of an Imperial-format sheet (overall approximately 559 x 762 mm; 22 x 30 inches) of ‘medium-weight pale grey-green wove’ paper, made by Thomas Smith and Henry Allnutt of Great Ivy Mill, Maidstone, Kent.1 Paper conservator Peter Bower has identified all but a handful of the constituents of three such sheets, each with the watermark ‘Smith & Allnutt | 1827’, which were carefully torn up by Turner for sketching.2 They are ‘the only examples of his working on coloured papers from this maker’, although he had previously used their white wove papers.3
These torn-up sheets all fall within an extensive grouping dated in Finberg’s 1909 Inventory to about 1830–41, comprising drawings of similar format and technique:
Miscellaneous: Black and White. | (a) Grey Paper. | A number of sketches of mountain scenery, mostly unidentified. Among them are probably German subjects, in the neighbourhood of the Rhine and Danube, scenes in the Austrian Alps and North Italy, as well as scenes in Switzerland and elsewhere. | The drawings are grouped according to the paper they are made on.4
Presumably on the advice of Tate curators, Bower dates the use of one of these virtually reconstructed sheets to 1840, when Turner travelled to Venice via Germany, without further elaboration or discussion of the individual subjects;5 by implication the others were used around that time. Although it seems likely that these torn-up sheets were used within a short period at a relatively late stage of Turner’s career and perhaps kept together in bundles at least initially, the subjects, dating and sequence of use after their 1827 manufacture, and hence the precise relationships between these and other sheets in Finberg’s portmanteau ‘Grey Paper’ section among which they are widely scattered, remain to be confirmed.
1
Bower 1999, p.109.
2
See ibid. and p.110 note 1 for the individual Turner Bequest numbers of the identified works; as a result of Bower’s wider survey of Turner’s papers, at the time of writing numerous small batches of Turner Bequest works on grey paper are kept together in annotated folders, indicating that they have been identified as systematically torn from specific large sheets.
3
Ibid., p.109; see p.110 note 4 for further details.
4
Finberg 1909, II, p.1084; the overall section, ibid., pp.1064–96, comprises Turner Bequest CCCXLI 1–445.
5
Bower 1999, p.109 no.62, reproduced, as ‘Reassembled sheet’.

Matthew Imms
February 2016

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