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As Finberg first identified,1 the subject of this sketch is the fifteenth-century Duomo of Turin (also known as the Cattedrale di San Giovanni, or Cathedral of St John the Baptist), the most important Roman Catholic church in northern Italy. Turner’s viewpoint is directly in front of the cathedral looking east onto the façade. To the left is the campanile, completed in 1470, and of a slightly earlier style than the main building, and Turner has also included a bustling array of figures gathered in the piazza in front of the steps. Also visible in the drawing is the adjoining seventeenth-century Cappella della Sacra Sindone (Chapel of the Holy Shroud), which as Turner noted in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook, houses the celebrated Turin Shroud (see Tate D13962; Turner Bequest CLXXII 16a). In Turner’s sketch the chapel is the larger, Baroque dome rising behind the smaller, plainer dome of the main cathedral.
Turin was the first major city which Turner reached during his 1819 tour of Italy and this study is one of a significant number of drawings which he made during his brief sojourn there. The careful and precise nature of his sketches reflects his interest in Italian architecture, as well as his excitement at arriving at such a notable and important destination. For a list of further sketches of the city see folio 12 (D14166; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 11).
Finberg 1909, p.508.