Turner thoroughly explored the Roman Forum (Campo Vaccino) and made numerous sketches from various angles. This view of the north end is drawn from an area of high ground in the western corner with the Temple of Vespasian in the foreground on the left and the Temple of Saturn on the right. In the centre is the Arch of Septimius Severus, which in Turner’s day was still only partially excavated, whilst in the background is the Baroque dome and façade of the Church of Santi Luca e Martina.
The high viewpoint of the sketch is similar to that composed by Turner for his later oil painting, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino exhibited 1839 (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland).1 Very few studies of the Forum appear in the sketchbooks from Turner’s 1828 visit to Rome so he would certainly have referred to his 1819 drawings when painting the picture. The pose of the female figure in the bottom left-hand corner of the sketch also bears some resemblance to the girl standing in the left-hand foreground of the painting wearing a white blouse and yellow skirt.
For a general discussion of the Forum and further studies see folio 32 (D15355).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.379.