Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes on Santa Croce, Florence; Also Studies of Frescoes from the Chiostrino di Voti of the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata, Florence


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 x 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCI 35 a

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell first identified, the inscriptions in the top half of this page relate to works of art found within the Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence.1 Turner’s interests were wide-ranging and his notes encompass objects from the early Renaissance to the nineteenth century. Powell transcribed the artist’s handwritten lines,2 which are also repeated here with only minor variations from her text:
Volturano Ai Lorri Francavilla
Donatello Christ in Wood. P[...] Giotu
Tomb of M A. G. A. one by Canova / Ghiberti
Ricci Meuhali Mulactio [sketch]
Ali Lauri di Bronzino
Fra Villa PA
Parts of these notes refer respectively to three artists, Il Volterrano (also known as Baldessare Francheschini, 1611–circa 1690), Alessandro Allori (1535–1607) and Pietro Francavilla (1548–1615), who were collectively responsible for the decoration of the Niccolini chapel in the north (left) transept of Santa Croce.3 The chapel is noticeably more ornate than much of the rest of the basilica and Powell has discussed how ‘its classical vocabulary and rich decoration ... were a welcome sight to English eyes after the rigours of Tuscan Gothic’.4 Also mentioned is the wooden Crucifix by Donatello (circa 1386–1466) in the Bardi Chapel at the end of the north transept, and the artist Giotto (1266/7–1337) who painted a number of works in the church including frescoes of St Francis in the Bardi chapel and the altarpiece in the Baroncelli Chapel.5 Santa Croce is particularly famous for its many monuments to celebrated Italians and here Turner has mentioned the tombs of Michelangelo,6 Galileo, the eighteenth-century dramatist Vittorio Alfieri (by Turner’s contemporary, Antonio Canova), and the grave of Lorenzo Ghiberti, sculptor of the bronze doors of the Baptistery in Florence.7 The tiny sketch accompanying the fourth line of text represents the figure of Philosophy from the tomb of P.G. Signorini da Mulazzo (died 1812), a sculpture by the nineteenth-century Florentine Academician, Stefano Ricci (1765–1837). Turner’s adjacent notes reflect two attempts to spell the monument’s Latin inscription of the owner’s name, ‘Mulactio’.8 Finally, the last line references Taddeo Gaddi’s fresco, Tree of the Cross which is an illustration from the book Tree of Life by St Bonaventura. The fresco is found in the refectory (now the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce).9

Nicola Moorby
December 2010

Powell 1984, p.429.
Powell 1987, p.103.
Ibid., p.101. For detailed descriptions and nineteenth-century accounts see also Powell 1984, pp.429 and 505 note 73.
Turner also noted the Tomb of Michelangelo in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13959; Turner Bequest CLXXII 15).
Powell 1987, p.103. For detailed descriptions and nineteenth-century accounts see also Powell 1984, pp.429 and 505 note 73.
Powell 1984, p.504 note 72. See also Powell 1987, p.101 and an illustration of the sculpture of ‘Philosophy’, fig.110.
Powell 1984, p.429.
Reproduced in Powell 1987, fig.105. The Visitation is the second lunette on the right after entering the cloister.
Reproduced in ibid., fig.104. The Birth of the Virgin is the fourth lunette on the right after entering the cloister.
Powell 1984, p.504 note 66.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like