Joseph Mallord William Turner

Piazza della Rotonda with the Portico of the Pantheon; and a Study of the Sky over Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 x 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 64

Catalogue entry

The subject of the sketch at the top of this page is the Piazza della Rotonda, a square to the east of the Piazza Navona which is dominated by the Pantheon, the oldest surviving domed structure in Rome. Turner’s viewpoint is to the east of the portico, at the top of present-day Via Minerva, looking across towards the fountain in the centre of the piazza, which is topped by an Egyptian obelisk. For a general discussion of the Pantheon and the fountain see folio 29 (D16208; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 28). A sketch of the Pantheon’s interior can be found on the page overleaf, see folio 65 verso (D16273; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 64a).
The view occupying the bottom half of the page appears to be a swiftly drawn study of the sky over Rome. The line of the horizon includes the silhouette of a statue mounted on a building or monument and although the location has not been conclusively identified, similarities to another series of sketches on folio 66 (D16274; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65) suggests that Turner may have been looking across the gardens of the Villa Borghese, possibly from the Villa Medici. The central focus, however, is the clouds darkening the sky above, and although the sketch is rough it effectively captures a sense of movement and shifting atmospheric conditions.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

Read full Catalogue entry

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