Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The So-Called Temple of Minerva Medica and the Porta San Lorenzo, Rome, at Sunset 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 36
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 36
Gouache, watercolour and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 228 x 367 mm
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 36’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 36’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
National Gallery, London, various dates to at least 1904 (595).
Display of Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, lent from the British Museum, National Gallery, Millbank, Tate Gallery, London 1931–March 1934 (no catalogue).
Loan of Turner Watercolours from the British Museum, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, December 1964–January 1965, University of Nottingham Art Gallery January–March 1965 (no catalogue).
Turner 1775–1851, Royal Academy, London, November 1974–March 1975 (229, as ‘Rome: The Claudian Aqueduct with the Temple of Minerva Medica’).
J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, October 1983–January 1984 (148, reproduced, as ‘Rome: l’Aqueduc claudien et le temple de Minerva Medica’).
The Third Decade: Turner Watercolours 1810–1820, Tate Gallery, London, January–April 1990 (38, reproduced and in colour).
Italy in the Age of Turner: “The Garden of the World”, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, March–May 1998 (13, reproduced in colour).
William Turner: Licht und Farbe, Museum Folkwang, Essen, September 2001–January 2002, Kunsthaus Zürich, February–May 2002 (92, reproduced in colour).
Turner e l’Italia/Turner and Italy, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, November 2008–February 2009, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, March–June 2009 (51, reproduced in colour).
Turner és Itália, Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest, July–October 2009 (no number, reproduced).
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, no.595, pp.298–9, frame no.106, drawing no.226, 636, as ‘Rome. The Claudian Aqueduct’.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.563, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct. Water colour (mixed pure and body colour). 595, N.G.’.
D[ugald] S[utherland] MacColl, National Gallery, Millbank: Catalogue: Turner Collection, London 1920, p.88.
Thomas Ashby, Turner’s Visions of Rome, London and New York 1925, p.25, reproduced in colour between pp.18–19 pl.12, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct’.
Martin Butlin, Andrew Wilton and John Gage, Turner 1775–1851, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1974, no.229, p.91, as ‘Rome: The Claudian Aqueduct with the Temple of Minerva Medica’.
Gerald Wilkinson, The Sketches of Turner, R.A. 1802–20: Genius of the Romantic, London 1974, reproduced in colour rear end papers.
Gerald Wilkinson, Turner’s Colour Sketches 1820–34, London 1975, p.18.
Gerald Wilkinson, Turner Sketches 1789–1820, London 1977, reproduced in colour, p.157, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct’.
Maurice Guillaud, Nicholas Alfrey, Andrew Wilton and others, Turner en France: aquarelles, peintures, dessins, gravures, carnets de croquis / Turner in France: Watercolours, Paintings, Drawings, Engravings, Sketchbooks, exhibition catalogue, Centre Culturel du Marais, Paris 1981, reproduced p.579 fig.1106, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner Abroad: France; Italy; Germany; Switzerland, London 1982, p.43, reproduced in colour, p. pl.35, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct’.
John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, no.148 p.221, reproduced p.220, as ‘Rome: l’Aqueduc claudien et le temple de Minerva Medica’.
Michael Kitson, ‘Turner and Claude’, Turner Studies, vol.2, no.2, Winter 1983, pp.3, 15 note 8 reproduced p.2 ill.2, as ‘The Aurelian Wall’.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, pp.123, 124, 475 notes 33 and 36, reproduced pl.71, as ‘The “Temple of Minerva Medica” and the Aurelian wall’.
John Gage, J.M.W. Turner: ‘A Wonderful Range of Mind’, New Haven and London 1987, p. reproduced in colour pl.149, as ‘Rome, the Claudian Aqueduct with the Temple of Minerva Medica’.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.46, 50.
Diane Perkins, The Third Decade: Turner Watercolours 1810–1820, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, no.38, reproduced and [p.19] in colour, as ‘Rome: The Claudian Aqueduct’.
Cecilia Powell, Italy in the Age of Turner: “The Garden of the World”, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 1998, p.30, no.13, reproduced in colour, p.30, as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct and Temple of Minerva Medica’.
Andrew Wilton, Inge Bodesohn-Vogel and Helena Robinson, William Turner: Licht und Farbe, exhibition catalogue, Museum Folkwang, Essen 2001, p.318 no.92 reproduced, and in colour, p.160, as ‘Rom: Aqua Claudia und Tempel der Minerva Medica [Rome: the Claudean Aqueduct and the Temple of Minerva Medica]’.
Stendhal, Viaggi in Italia illustrati dai Pittori del Romanticismo: Passeggiate Romane, Paris and Florence 2002, reproduced in colour, p.368, as ‘L’Acquedotto Claudio e il tempo di Minerva Medica’.
Ian Warrell, Blandine Chavanne and Michael Kitson, Turner et le Lorrain, exhibition catalogue, Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy 2002, pp.17, 176, reproduced in colour, ill.4, as ‘Le Mur d’Aurélien’.
James Hamilton, Nicola Moorby, Christopher Baker and others, Turner e l’Italia, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara 2008, no.51, pp., 191, reproduced in colour, as ‘L’acquedotto Claudio’.
James Hamilton, Nicola Moorby, Christopher Baker and others, Turner & Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, p.49, reproduced in colour pl.55 p., as ‘The Claudian Aqueduct’.
Christopher Baker and James Hamilton, Turner és Itália, exhibition catalogue, Szépmuvészeti Múzeum, Budapest 2009, p.54, reproduced in colour, p., fig.51.
The subject of this coloured study, the so-called Temple of Minerva Medica, was described by Charlotte Eaton in her travel guide to Rome, a series of letters written in 1817–8 and published in 1820:
In a lonely vineyard on the Esquiline Hill, stands the picturesque ruin of the Temple of Minerva Medica. Its form, though circular without, is decagonal within. It is built of brick, and is now stripped of every ornament. But the yawning chasms in its vaulted roof, the wild weeds that wave over it, the fallen masses that choke it up, the total destruction that threatens, and the solitude that surrounds it, give it an interest and a charm it probably never could have owned in a state of perfect preservation.1
The Temple was one of Rome’s most frequently visited monuments, yet the building itself is something of a mystery. Popularly deriving its name from a statue found on site depicting the goddess Minerva with a snake (representative of the medical symbol of the caduceus) the circular structure has also been variously described as a nymphaeum or bath house and a dining pavilion.2 In the nineteenth century the area was a wasteland of Roman ruins and the Temple lay within a modern vineyard which Eustace recorded also contained ‘various subterranean vaulted apartments, some more, some less ornamented, the receptacles of the dead of various families.’3 Today, the circular ruin stands between the railway tracks leading into Termini station and the present-day via Giovanni Giolotti, very close to the Porta Maggiore (also known as the Porta Praenestina).
In 1823, Marianne Colston wrote that the combination of the Temple’s ruined architecture with wild plants growing over it ‘presents the most picturesque and lovely object to the painter’.4 In fact, by the nineteenth century it had become a popular motif for artists, the people according to James Whiteside who had ‘succeeded the warriors and emperors who once dwelt in the eternal city.’5 Turner was familiar with the appearance of the monument through the work of others such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi,6 Richard Wilson,7 and James Hakewill.8 He had also depicted it prior to seeing it for himself, as the subject in one of the plates of the Liber Studiorum, The Temple of Minerva Medica (‘Hindoo Devotions’ or ‘The Hindoo Worshipper’) circa 1808 (see Tate D08128; Turner Bequest CXVII A), engraved by Robert Dunkarton, 1811 (see Tate A00957). During his 1819 visit to Rome he made numerous studies of the structure from a variety of angles, see the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15401; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 55), the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16318; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 87a), and the Small Roman Colour Studies sketchbook (Tate D16436–D16438; Turner Bequest CXC 27a–29). His sketches shows that at this time the building still had the partial remains of a vaulted roof. This, however, collapsed in 1828.
This study depicts a distant view of the Temple of Minerva Medica from the east, at a point near the Church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura. To the right can be seen the towers of the Porta San Lorenzo (also known as the Porta Tiburtina), and on the left is the bell-tower of the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Stretching across the horizontal breadth of the composition is the Aurelian Wall. As noted by Thomas Ashby, however, Turner has misinterpreted the arches to the left of the Temple as an aqueduct, when in fact they are part of an internal gallery in the upper section of the Walls.9 The design is particularly close to studies in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15432–D15434; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 70a-71a) and the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16436 and D16438; Turner Bequest CXC 27a and 29). Another watercolour featuring the Temple from a distance can also be found within this sketchbook (see D16362; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 35). Like many drawings within the Rome C. Studies sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. There is no evidence of preliminary drawing in pencil and the scene seems to have been entirely developed in watercolour and gouache. Turner’s use of colour is naturalistic and local, and his handling of the paint is largely loose and free. John Ruskin suggested that it was ‘just possible’ that Turner executed the study en plein air because the colouring was so ‘hasty’.10 However, as Cecilia Powell has discussed it is more likely that the watercolour was completed indoors from memory (for further discussion, see the introduction to the sketchbook).11 The delicate pink and yellow blush of the sunset sky in the west and the dark, dramatic sweeping clouds on the right provide an evocative backdrop to the sight of the crumbling ruin, overgrown with weeds and moss. A solitary figure in the central foreground further enhances the sense of melancholy, a familiar mood for the Romantic tourist reflecting on the transience and decline which Rome so poignantly represented.12
Charlotte Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, Edinburgh 1820, p.245.
Amanda Claridge, Judith Toms, Tony Cubberley, Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, Oxford 1998, p.357.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.I, p.391.
Marianne Colston, Journal of a Tour in France, Switzerland and Italy in the Years 1819, 1820 and 1821, vol.1, London 1823, p.150.
James Whiteside, The Vicissitudes of the Eternal City: Or, Ancient Rome with Notes Classical and Historical, London 1849, p.94.
See Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, nos.62, 165, 945, reproduced pp.94, 185, 727.
See Turner’s copy of Wilson’s River Landscape with Bathers, Cattle and Ruin in the Wilson sketchbook (Tate D01209–D01210; Turner Bequest XXXVIII 92–3; see also Ian Warrell, Blandine Chavanne and Michael Kitson, Turner et le Lorrain, exhibition catalogue, Musée des beaux-arts, Nancy 2002, p.50.
See Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the Drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.3.29, reproduced p.210.
Ashby 1925, p.25.
John Ruskin, ‘Catalogue of the Turner Sketches in the National Gallery’, London 1857, reproduced in Cook and Wedderburn (eds.), vol.XIII, p.298.
Powell 1984, pp.124 and 475 note 36; and Powell 1987, p.50.
Powell 1998, p.230.
Blank, except for traces of watercolour; inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘9’ centre right, parallel with right-hand edge, and stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 36’ bottom right.
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