View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
One of the most significant series of studies dating from Turner’s 1819 trip to Rome was the sequence of on-the-spot pencil sketches relating to the Loggia of Raphael, a colonnaded porch on the second floor of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, decorated by Raphael (1483–1520) and his studio. The sixteenth-century loggia, which looks out over the Cortile San Damaso and St Peter’s Square, is approximately 65 metres long and 4 metres wide (215 by 13 feet) and comprised of thirteen bays. Turner made a closely detailed visual record of the room, particularly concentrating on the southern end of the interior and the decoration of the first three bays and window arches, see folios 13 verso–21 (D14955–D14965). From these drawings evolved the artist’s first exhibited oil painting following his Italian tour, the vast canvas Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia 1820 (Tate, N00503).1 It has been widely suggested that Turner thought of the idea for the picture whilst he himself was actually sketching there.2 However, the precise nature of these studies, focusing almost exclusively on the first three bays of the loggia, strongly suggests that in fact the artist had already conceived the theme before commencing his sketching campaign and was specifically gathering material with the concept already well advanced in his mind. Virtually every element recorded within his drawings was employed within the composition of the finished painting, and there are no sketches extraneous to this purpose.
This page represents a study of the receding perspective of the first three bays of the loggia, looking towards the southern end with the inside wall on the right and the arched windows on the left. As Cecilia Powell first identified, Turner’s viewpoint must have been standing right up against the inside wall at the end of the fourth bay.3 Positioned at the far end of the room is a plinth containing a portrait bust of Raphael by Alessandro d’Este (1787–1826), the son of the current Director of the Vatican Museums.4 The drawing provides the main compositional basis for the right-hand side of Rome from the Vatican, although in the finished version there are three, not four, bays visible, and the plinth stands empty in favour of the figure of Raphael himself in the foreground.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
See Powell 1987, pp.62 and 116–7, and Hamilton et al. 2009, p.53. Hamilton, for example, has described the studies as ‘far more detailed than [Turner] would reasonably need if he were not sympathetic to, and even complicit in, a complete copying of them’ and has stated that the artist only ‘used a fraction’ of them.
Powell 1984, p.236.