View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of this sketch as the Theatre of Marcellus, a Roman amphitheatre built by the Emperor Augustus and incorporated into a sixteenth-century palazzo by Baldassare Peruzzi (1481–1536).1 Turner has depicted the monument face-on, recording the ascending orders of architecture on the curved outer wall. The lower arches of the theatre were formerly used to house shops and market stalls and the artist has included a group of figures and piles of goods in the foreground. The blend of daily street life against the backdrop of ancient and Renaissance architecture made the theatre a quintessential Roman subject for topographical artists seeking the picturesque. Other views include Piranesi’s Teatro di Marcello for the Vedute di Roma (c.1749) and Luigi Rossini’s Avenzi del Teatro di Marcello Situato in Piazza Montanara from Le Antichita Romane (1821).2
Another partial view of the edifice can be seen on folio 50 (D16243; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 49).