Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 33 Verso:
Lower Part of the Column of Phocas in the Forum, Rome, with Inscription on the Arch of Septimius Severus 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 33 a
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 33 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 113 x 189 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘IMP CAESIVS.O.SEPTIMIONIFIL . SEVERO. PIO. PERTINRCIAVC. PATRIPA AEPARTIICOAS AB COET | PARTHICO. ADIABENICO. PONTIEIC. MAXIMO RIBVNIC. POTEST. X IMP. XI. COS III. PRO COS ET. | IMP. CAES. MxAVRELO. L.FIL. ANTONINO AVG IPIO. FEIICI TRIBVNIC . POTEST. VI . COS. PRO [^]CI COS P. P | OTIMIS . PORTIESIM . I SQVP. PRINCIPEVS; | OB REM. PVBLICAM. RESTITVTAM. IMPERIVMQVE . POPVLI . ROMANI . PROPA GATVM | INSIGNIBUS . VIRTIBVS . FORVM . DOMI . FORISQVE . S . P . Q R’ along top of page
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.537, as ‘Lower part of the Column of Phocas, with inscription’.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, pp.256 note 106, 422 as The inscription on the Arch of Severus, 475 note 30.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.51 note 8, 125 note 65.
This sketch is a detailed study of the marble base and square brick foundation of the Column of Phocas in the Roman Forum. Although described by Byron as ‘Thou nameless column with the buried base’, the excavation by Lady Elizabeth Foster, Duchess of Devonshire of an inscription on the base had revealed its identity in 1813. 1 Turner’s sketch shows the steps leading up to the column and the surrounding ruins and broken pieces of masonry that characterised the Forum at this time. In the bottom left-hand corner is an inverted study of the acanthus leaves of a Corinthian column.
Across the top half of the page Turner has transcribed the Latin text from the attic of the Arch of Septimius Severus, see folio 33 (D15356). The true inscription on the monument reads:
IMP CAES LUCIO . SEPTIMIO . M FIL . SEVERO PIO PERTINACI . AVG PATRI PATRIAE PARTHICO ARABICO . ET | PARTHICO . ADIABENICO . PONTIFIC . MAXIMO TRIBVNIC . POTEST . XI IMP . XI . COS III . PROCOS . ET | IMP . CAES . M . AVRELIO . L . FIL . ANTONINO . AVG . PIO . FELICI . TRIBVNIC . POTEST . VI . COS . PROCOS . P . P | OPTIMIS . FORTISSIMISQUE . PRINCIPIBVS . | OB REM . PVBLICAM . RESTITVTAM . IMPERIVMQUE POPVLI . ROMANI . PROPAGATVM | INSIGNIBVS . VIRTVTIBVS . EORUM . DOMI . FORISQVE . S . P . Q . R
This translates as:
To the Emperor Caesar Lucius Septimius Severus Pius Pertinax Augustus Parthicus Arabicus, Son of Marcus, Father of the Fatherland, Pontifex Maximus, invested with Tribunician power for eleven times, hailed emperor eleven times, Consul three times and Proconsul and to the blessed Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus Pius [Caracalla], son of Lucius, invested with the Tribunican power six times, Consul, Proconsul, Father of the Fatherland. The most Noble, Bravest and First Citizens before the restored Republic and the Expanded Empire of the Roman People. Through their distinguished virtues in households and in the forums. The Senate and the People of Rome.
The middle line ‘OPTIMIS . FORTISSIMISQUE . PRINCIPIBVS’ was added by Caracalla to obliterate the original inscription which included the name of Geta, his brother whom he had assassinated in 212AD. The inscription is repeated on both sides of the Arch but the west face (the Capitol side) contains a hole in the centre of the text. Turner therefore must have copied the text from the eastern side where he also sketched details of the reliefs and ornamentation, see folio 34, (D15358).
For a general discussion of Turner’s depictions of the Forum see folio 32 (D15355).
Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV, Stanza 110.
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