Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Basilica of Constantine from the Farnese Gardens on the Palatine Hill, Rome

1819

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Medium
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 234 x 369 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16356
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 30

Display caption

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 Romantic 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 sublime 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

Catalogue entry