Turner's views of Rome, especially those from his first visit in 1819, seem impregnated with the Byronic spirit. Both painter and poet shared the preoccupation with departed grandeur. Rome, 'my country! city of the soul! ... Lone mother of dead empires!' was the supreme example of the ironies of history. Individual sufferings paled beside the tragedy proclaimed by the city's ruins but natural beauty, represented for both Turner and Byron by moonlight on the Colosseum, transfigured everything, 'leaving that beautiful which still was so,/ And making that which was not, till the place/ Became religion, and the heart ran o'er/ With silent worship of the great of old'.
Gallery label, August 2004