Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Paintings in the Palazzo Corsini, Rome; a View of Nemi; and Two Landscape Sketches

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 161 x 101 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15106
Turner Bequest CLXXX 1 a

Catalogue entry

Cecilia Powell has identified the handwritten inscriptions at the top of this page as notes on paintings in the collection of the Palazzo Corsini. This fifteenth-century palace, rebuilt in the eighteenth century, stands in the Trastevere district near the Villa Farnesina, at the foot of the Janiculum Hill. Turner had listed it amongst his notes taken from Revd John Chetwode Eustace’s A Classical Tour Through Italy, in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13945; Turner Bequest CLXXII 8). Today it houses the National Gallery of Ancient Art, a collection largely comprised of works amassed by the Corsini family. Turner’s observations on the paintings include comments on Ecce Homo by Guercino (1591–1666), A Hare by Hans Hoffman (circa 1530–1591) formerly believed to be by Albrecht Dürer,1 and The Annunciation and The Holy Family (or Madonna del Silenzio) which were then thought to be the work of Michelangelo, but were later attributed to Marcello Venusti (1512/15–1579) working from the Renaissance master’s drawings.2 A study of the head of Christ from Guercino’s Ecce Homo can still be seen in the top left-hand corner, despite being crossed through. Further and related notes on the paintings can be found in the Route to Rome sketchbook (Tate D13881; Turner Bequest CLXXI 13), whilst sketches of antique sculptures in the Palazzo Corsini can be found on folio 1 (D15105). John Gage has described Turner’s notes as indicative of his interest in the prismatic principle of colour harmony in Old Master paintings.3
In addition to studies in Rome, Turner also appears to have employed this sketchbook on several occasions during his journey to or from Naples. In the centre of the page is a rough landscape sketch. Comparison with similar studies on folio 82 (D15249; Turner Bequest CLXXX 81) and in the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15572–D15573; Turner Bequest 9a–10), suggests that the view depicts the town and lake of Nemi, approximately eighteen miles south-east of Rome. Further sketches of Nemi can also be found on folios 6, 26 verso, 29 verso, 75 verso, 79 verso and 80 verso (D15113, D15154, D15160, D15236, D15244, and D15246; Turner Bequest CLXXX 5, 25a, 28a, 74a, 78a and 79a).

Nicola Moorby
December 2009

1
Powell 1995, p.11.
2
Powell 1984, p.411 and Powell 1987, p.67. The Annunciation is reproduced in the latter, fig.68. The painting is now in the Palazzo Barberini.
3
Gage 1969, pp.62 and 238 note 35.

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