Joseph Mallord William Turner

The So-Called Temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli, and Details of its Decoration; and Part of a View of the Bay of Pozzuoli with the Ruins of Caligula’s Bridge


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 122 x 197 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 70 a

Catalogue entry

The so-called Temple of Serapis at Pozzuoli has been more recently identified as a macellum, or public market hall, originally comprising a porticoed courtyard surrounded by shops. The ruins, dating from the second century AD, are the subject of the lower sketch on this page. Turner has recorded the appearance of the site characterised by the three distinctive columns and has also made a more detailed study of an ornamental fragment of masonry. He is likely to have been familiar with other images of the ruins, for example a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Remains of the Temple of Jupiter Serapis, at Puzzuoli 1816 (British School at Rome Library).1
At the top of the page is part of a general view of the Bay of Pozzuoli which continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 73 (D15699; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 71). Visible in the distance is the island of Nisida with the distant Sorrentine peninsula. The line of dark blocks projecting out of the sea on the left represents the remains of the Roman breakwater of Pozzuoli, popularly known as the Bridge of Caligula. According to legend, Caligula constructed a floating pontoon of boats in order to disprove a prediction that he would no more become Emperor than ride across the Gulf of Baiae with horses. The bridge was three miles long and stretched between Pozzuoli (ancient Puteoli) and Baia. This story formed the subject of a later oil painting by Turner, Caligula’s Palace and Bridge exhibited 1831 (Tate, N00512).2 During the early twentieth century the surviving piers of the Roman structure were incorporated into the modern sea wall which stands today.

Nicola Moorby
June 2010

Reproduced in 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.5.47, p.276. Other images include a watercolour by Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe Ducros (1748–1810), Temple de Jupiter Sérapis à Pouzzoles circa 1781 (Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne), reproduced in colour in Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissonnas et al., Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros, exhibition catalogue, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne 1985, no.31, colour plate IV.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.337.

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