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

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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Perugia, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
D27661
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 144
Gouache, pencil and watercolour, approximately 110 x 158 mm on white wove paper, 234 x 307 mm
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 144’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vignette appeared as the end-piece to the thirty-fifth section of Rogers’s Italy, entitled ‘The Fire-fly’.1 It was engraved by Edward Goodall, who was one of the most prolific and skilled interpreters of Turner’s designs.2 Perugia offers an idealised view of the Umbrian plain, with the Apennines rising in the distance and scattered ancient ruins and umbrella or stone pines occupying an otherwise barren foreground.
Compared to many of his other Italian subjects, Turner had very little first-hand material to refer to while preparing this vignette. Although he did visit Perugia in 1819, he appears to have produced only two views of the city at this time (see Tate D16580, D16581; Turner Bequest CXCI 57a, 58). The vignette does not appear to have been modelled directly after either sketch, although the second drawing, which shows the city from a distance, may bear some relation. Instead, the content and composition of Perugia appear to have derived primarily from Turner’s memory and imagination, which would account for the confusion that has surrounded the title of the work. Although it was published in 1830 with the title Perugia, later writers were unable to recognise the subject matter: Ruskin called it a ‘nameless composition with stone pines’,3 whilst Finberg simply named it ‘Italian Composition.’4
Neither Perugia nor Tivoli, the vignette that appears as the head-piece to ‘The Fire-Fly’, bears any direct relationship to the topics discussed in this section of Italy. However, both compositions fuse the natural beauty of the Roman countryside with picturesque ancient ruins, expressing Rogers’s quintessential vision of Italy as the once glorious centre of Western civilisation.
1
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.168.
2
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.366. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04659 and T04660).
3
Powell 1983, p. 6. Powell is citing Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1903–12, vol.III, p.242.
4
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.899.
Verso:
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘19’ and ‘1 b’ centre and ‘CCLXXX.144’ bottom centre and ‘D.27661’ bottom left. There is also a stroke of black watercolour bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 144’ bottom right.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Perugia, 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-perugia-for-rogerss-italy-r1133320, accessed 31 October 2014.