Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Interior of the Portico of St Peter’s, Rome, from the Northern Vestibule


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 x 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 17 a

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is the interior of the portico of St Peter’s. Turner’s view is taken from the northern vestibule near the equestrian statue of Constantine, looking down the atrium towards the southern vestibule. The entrance from St Peter’s Square is on the left, whilst the doors leading to the Basilica are on the right. The statue in the niche above the balustrade on the left-hand side is The Church 1720–32 by Giuseppe Frascari.1 The artist has also recorded the ornate stucco panels of the ceiling and the small statues of the Popes in the lunettes.
After exiting the basilica from the portico, Turner probably went on to draw the sketch on folio 41 verso (D16227; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 40 a), which shows the view from the southern end of the steps looking across St Peter’s Square. The two drawings represent an example of Turner’s sporadic sketchbook use. They were almost certainly executed in immediate succession and yet appear at separate, random points within the book amidst sequences of unrelated subjects.
For a full description of Turner’s studies of St Peter’s see the Introduction to the sketchbook and folio 84 (D16309; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 83).

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

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