Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of the Front of a Sarcophagus with a Relief Depicting the Muses, from the Vatican Museums


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 x 161 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 37 a

Catalogue entry

During his 1819 stay in Rome, one of Turner’s most extensive sketching campaigns was the large number of pencil studies made from the sculpture collections of the Vatican Museums (for a general discussion, see the introduction to the sketchbook). Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of this sketch as the front of a sarcophagus with a relief depicting the Muses, from the Museo Pio-Clementino.1 The object used to be exhibited in the Sala del Meleagro (Gallery of the Meleager),2 but today it is found in the East Portico of the Cortile Ottagono (also known as the Cortile Ottagonale, formerly the Cortile del Belvedere).3
Turner has annotated the drawing ‘52’, which presumably relates to an exhibit number displayed on the work. However, it does not appear to correspond to any known lists published within contemporary guide books or catalogues of the Vatican collections.

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

Powell 1984, p.416.
Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.II, ‘I. Belvedere’, no.13, pp.40–1, reproduced pl.5.
Giandomenico Spinola, Il Museo Pio-Clementino, vol.I, Vatican City 1996, no.PE 34, p.46.

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