J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner Banditti, for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Banditti, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
D27681
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 164
Pen and ink, pencil and watercolour, approximately 175 x 185 mm on white wove paper, 242 x 297 mm
Inscribed by ?Robert Wallis in pencil ‘1’ through ‘19’ along top and bottom edges and ‘1’ through ‘18’ in descending order down left and right-hand edges
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 164’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vignette, engraved by Robert Wallis, served as the head-piece for the thirty-eighth section of Rogers’s Italy, which was entitled ‘An Adventure’.1 Rogers’s nostalgia for the past extends even to Italy’s notorious mountain bandits who he believed had degenerated from once noble thieves into depraved brutes. As he describes in his previous poem, ‘Banditti’:
’Tis a wild life, fearful and full of change,
The mountain-robber’s.
...
Time was, the trade was nobler, if not honest;
When they that robbed, were men of better faith
Than kings or pontiffs;
...
’Tis no longer so.
Now crafty, cruel, torturing ere they slay
The unhappy captive, and with bitter jests
Mocking Misfortune; vain, fantastical,
Wearing whatever glitters in the spoil;
And most devout, tho’, when they kneel and pray,
With every bead they could recount a murder
(Italy, pp.178–9)
Banditti were common figures in contemporary literature and art, for example, in Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo (1844–6) which is set during the same period. They were also a genuine concern for visitors on the Grand Tour, particularly as travellers made their way further southward to Rome and beyond. As J.R. Hale explains, ‘even the pleasure trip from Rome to Tivoli was not without its darker side.’2 One contemporary tourist described seeing at various places along the side of the road, ‘the detached limbs of malefactors, suspended on posts, a practice which has not produced the effect of preventing robberies on the road near Tivoli.’3
As with several other watercolours in the Italy series, Turner has annotated the sheet with ink in order to clarify and emphasise certain details for his engraver. Most noticeably in Banditti, he has used ink to define and darken the foliage of the trees on the left side of the composition. Although this watercolour is approximately square in shape, the engraved version of Banditti is unique among Turner’s Italy illustrations for its vertical composition. This change was brought about by the removal of several figures in the bottom left and the addition of trees and a mountain range above the bridge. With these alterations, the overall form of the vignette became more rounded and symmetrical, a shift that Adele Holcomb attributes to Rogers’s influence.4 However, the alteration could just as easily reflect Turner’s preferences: it was not uncommon for the artist to instruct his engravers to change aspects of his original designs, as can be seen in Martigny (see Tate D27671; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 154).
In the case of Banditti (and very likely in the case of other Italy vignettes) it is nonetheless clear that Rogers, like Turner, remained involved in the illustration process up to the very end. On a touched print of the vignette, Turner wrote: ‘The Etching looks very promising ... Bring this Etching to Mr. Rogers before the trial of next week.’5 On this same touched proof, Turner also instructed Wallis to add ‘a mass of woods’ on the upper right side of the image and to adjust the appearance of the dirt path and rapids in the foreground of the composition.
Cecilia Powell has noted that the faint pencil lines drawn around this vignette were made by the engraver during the process of squaring-up the designs for reduction.6 The inscribed numbers along the edges would also have been part of this exercise.
The verso of the sheet contains a pencil sketch of a female figure (see Tate D41487, Turner Bequest CCLXXX164v).
1
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.183; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.367. There is one impression in Tate’s collection (T04661).
2
Quoted in Hale, J. R. The Italian Journal of Samuel Rogers. London, 1956, p.85.
3
Ibid.
4
Holcomb 1969, p.409.
5
Touched proof is located in the Yale Center for British Art. B1977.14.7272. Inscription in transcribed in Eric M. Lee, Translations: Turner and Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1993, p.32.
6
Powell 1983, p.10.
Verso:
See D41487

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Banditti, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-banditti-for-rogerss-italy-r1133321, accessed 07 July 2015.