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The structure dominating the foreground of this sketch is the Great Theatre of Pompeii, a semi-circular arena with a stage which lies near the southern perimeter of the city. Turner’s viewpoint is from the upper tiers of seating looking east towards the distant Lattari Mountains. Just beyond the theatre on the right is the Quadriporticus, a large porticoed square used as a foyer, whilst visible on the far left-hand side is the curved form of the nearby Small Theatre. This area was a popular subject for artists visiting the ruins,1 and an alternative prospect can be found on folio 26 (D15786). For further sketches and a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.
The composition is virtually identical to an engraving by Charles Heath, ‘View in the Great Theatre, Looking Towards the Scene’ published August 1818, reproduced in Sir William Gell and Joseph Gandy, Pompeiana: The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii, London 1824, vol.II, pl.70, between pp.258–9.