Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Roman Campagna and Distant Mountains


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour on paper
Support: 130 x 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 54

Catalogue entry

Apart from a distant line of mountains there are no distinguishing geographical features to help identify the location of this coloured sketch of open countryside. However, the format of empty landscape and wide expanse of sky, as well as the focus on atmospheric and naturalistic effects, has close similarities with other coloured compositions of the River Tiber and the Roman Campagna in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16122–D16123, D16129–D16131, D16133; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 34–5, 41–43, 45) and the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16385; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 55). A second related study can be found on folio 7 (D16482; Turner Bequest CXC 65).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background, although in this instance the artist has extensively worked up the design with further watercolour. He has also created pale highlights by scratching through the paint to reveal the paper beneath, principally to describe wisps of cloud in the sky. The infusion of pink and yellow light within the sky has led to the work been described as ‘Sunset’, although it could equally represent the rising sun.1 There is no evidence of under-drawing and despite the naturalistic appearance of the scene it is likely that Turner painted it from memory or imagination.
Butlin, Wilson and Gage 1974, p.88.
Blank except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?the artist in pencil ‘From M. Cavo [?4]’ top right
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘787’ bottom left and by an unknown hand in pencil ‘?CXC.54’ ascending right-hand edge

Nicola Moorby
May 2009

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