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

St Peter’s Sketchbook 1819

Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII
Sketchbook with paper-covered boards bound with a red leather spine, and a brass clasp
92 leaves of white wove writing paper, approximate page size 114 x 189 mm
Made by Thomas Smith and Henry Allnutt, Ivy Mill, Maidstone, Kent; various pages watermarked ‘Smith & Al[lnutt] | 18...’
Inscribed by the artist in black ink on the cover ‘Rome’ and ‘St Peters’ top centre. Finberg also records an inscription by the artist in ink on one of the covers ‘Rome. St. Peter’s. 14.’ which is now missing or destroyed.
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘CLXXXVIII’ top left
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVIII’ top left
Inside front cover (D40952) is inscribed by the artist in (faded) black ink ‘Decr 2 1819 Roma’ top left.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘CLXXXVIII’ top left and ‘Note f.50 had been shown at Oxford’ upper centre left
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVIII’ top left
Inside back cover (D40954) is numbered ‘280’ as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest, inscribed in black ink ‘No.280| Contains 90 leaves with Pencil Sketches | on both sides. | H.S. Trimmer | C. Turner’ and initialled in pencil by Charles Lock Eastlake ‘C.L.E.’ and John Prescott Knight, ‘JPK’.
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner used this sketchbook during his first tour of Italy in 1819, one of twenty-three related to that trip. As the artist’s own label on the front cover indicates, the contents comprise studies of various subjects in Rome, including sketches of the Basilica of St Peter’s. It is one of nine sketchbooks employed during his stay in the city, which aside from some weeks spent travelling to Naples and Paestum, lasted from early October to December or early January 1820.1
Unlike the sketchbook drawings which Turner produced en route between destinations, the material documenting his exploration of Rome does not follow an easily traceable route around the city. Instead the artist seems to have employed several books simultaneously, interchanging different formats and types of papers according to his artistic intent, and to whichever came most readily to hand at any given moment. Certain groups of sketches can be linked together, even if they do not appear sequentially, for example drawings of the Piazza San Pietro, see folios 41 verso and 84 verso (D16227 and D16310; Turner Bequest 40a and 83a) and the interior of St Peter’s, see folios 17 verso, 68 verso, 84 and 85–87 (D16189, D16279, D16309, and D16311–D16315; Turner Bequest 17a, 67a, 83, and 84–86). Others meanwhile seem entirely random and geographically unrelated to anything else in the book, for example, the study of the statue of Jonah in the Chigi Chapel of Santa Maria del Popolo, folio 48 (D16240; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 47) or the Piazza del Quirinal on folio 68 (D16278; CLXXXVIII 67). Areas covered within the book include: views from the Janiculum Hill, Monte Mario and the Esquiline Hill; the Ponte Molle and the Acqua Acetosa; the Roman Forum including the panorama of the city from the Tower of the Capitol; the interior and the exterior of the Pantheon; the gardens of the Villa Borghese and the Villa Medici; the River Tiber including the Porta di Ripa Grande and the Porta di Ripetta; the Aventine Hill; San Giovanni in Laterano; and sketches of the interior of St Peter’s. The front of the sketchbook is inscribed ‘2 December 1819’ although it is not known to what that date refers; whether the start or finish of Turner’s use of the book, or of something else altogether.
1
The other sketchbooks containing Roman subjects are Tivoli and Rome (CLXXIX), Vatican Fragments (CLXXX), Albano, Nemi, Rome (CLXXXII), Naples: Rome C. Studies (CLXXXVII), Rome: C. Studies (CLXXXIX), Small Roman C. Studies (CXC), Rome and Florence sketchbook (CXCI) and Remarks (Italy) (CXCIII) (all Tate, Turner Bequest). Despite its title, the Naples, Paestum and Rome (CLXXXVI) sketchbook does not appear to contain any views of the city and the Route to Rome sketchbook (CLXXI) contains notes but no identified sketches.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

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How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘St Peter’s Sketchbook 1819’, sketchbook, January 2009, 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/st-peters-sketchbook-r1139664, accessed 21 September 2014.