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During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made numerous sketches in and around the Colosseum.1 This sketch depicts the view from just inside the interior of the famous amphitheatre looking towards the eastern end of the Forum. Turner’s viewpoint is on the western side of the arena, looking out from the ground floor corridor between the inner wall and the partially intact outer wall. The main focus of the composition seen through the arches is the ruined Temple of Venus and Roma. This vast structure dating from the second century AD is comprised of two shrines, one for each of the respective goddesses, which stand back to back at the eastern end of the Forum. It is the eastern facing apse of Venus with its coffered half-dome ceiling which faces the Colosseum. To the left of the Temple can be seen the Arch of Titus, and to the right is the bell-tower of Santa Francesca Romana and the vast ruins of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background.
Nicola Moorby, ‘An Italian Treasury: Turner’s Sketchbooks’, in James Hamilton, Turner and Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, p.115.