Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Parts of the Frescoes in the Loggia di Psiche, Villa Farnesina, Rome: and a Landscape with Boats

1819

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Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 155 x 99 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D13985
Turner Bequest CLXXII 28 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s use of his sketchbooks was often sporadic and this page contains two sets of unconnected sketches. Cecila Powell has identified the figurative drawings as studies from the Villa Farnesina, Rome (now the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei), specifically the frecoes decorating the Loggia di Psiche with scenes from the story of Cupid and Psyche.1 In the top right-hand corner of this page Turner has sketched the back of a woman which relates to the spandrel in the south-east corner of the scheme known as ‘Cupid and the Three Graces’. Below is a standing frontal nude, recognisable as the figure of Venus from the spandrel known as ‘Venus, Ceres and Juno’ and a figure with a raised left arm from the ‘Psyche is Born to Olympus’ spandrel. At the bottom is a figure from one of the serveries (the curvilenear triangular panels in between the spandrels) depicting an amorino with a lion and a sea-horse. As Turner’s annotation indicates, the decorative scheme of the loggia was designed by Raphael (1483–1520) although the majority of the painting is thought to be the work of his follower, Giulio Romano (circa 1499–1546). Further related sketches can be found on folio 2 (D13935) and folio 29 verso (D13987), and Turner also made notes concerning the ceiling in the Route to Rome sketchbook (Tate D13884; Turner Bequest CLXXI 14 verso).
Aligned with the gutter of the sketchbook is a separate rough sketch of several small boats, some with people on board. Turner frequently sketched ships and boats which feature heavily in many of his paintings. This sketch may predate the others on the page, reflecting his use of the sketchbook prior to the 1819 Italian tour.

Nicola Moorby
July 2008

1
Powell 1984, p.405

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