Joseph Mallord William Turner

Amalfi, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 247 × 308 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 167

Catalogue entry

This vignette was engraved by Robert Wallis and appears as the end-piece for the forty-fourth section of Rogers’s Italy, also entitled ‘Amalfi’.1 The head-piece for this section, engraved after a design by Stothard, shows a young mother with five round-faced children playing by the seashore. In this section, Rogers describes Amalfi’s rise and fall as a great medieval maritime power:
    The time has been,
When on the quays along the Syrian coast,
’Twas asked and eagerly, at break of dawn,
What ships are from Amalfi?’ when her coins,
Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime;
From Alexandria southward to Sennaar,
And eastward, thro’ Damascus and Cabul
And Samarcand, to thy great wall, CATHAY.
Then were the nations by her wisdom swayed;
And every crime on every sea was judged
According to her judgements.
(Italy, pp.213–4)
The two boats that appear in Turner’s illustration allude to Amalfi’s once thriving ports; however, the vignette is actually set in the Amalfi of modern times.2 This fact is clearly signalled by the closing lines of Rogers’s poem, which appear just above Turner’s vignette:
   There now to him who sails
Under the shore, a few white villages,
Scattered above, below, some in the clouds,
Some on the margin of the dark blue sea,
And glittering thro’ their lemon-groves, anounce
The region of Amalfi. Then, half-fallen,
A lonely watch-tower on the precipice,
Their ancient land-mark, comes. Long may it last;
And to the seaman in a distant age,
Tho’ now he little thinks how large his debt,
Serve for their monument!
(Italy, pp.215–6)
The location which Turner has actually depicted within his watercolour is Atrani, a small village immediately to the east of Amalfi.3 The view may be based upon sketches from Turner’s 1819 visit in the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, Herculaneum sketchbook, several of which show the town much as it appears in the finished vignette (see Tate D15834, D15385, D15387, D15840–3; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 52 verso, 53, 54, 55 verso–57). The ‘half-fallen ... lonely watch-tower on the precipice’ to which Rogers refers, and which appears here in the right-hand distance standing atop the steep surrounding coastline, is actually the church of Santa Maria Maddalena. The artist also produced a preparatory study that informed the background detail in the finished vignette (see Tate D27618; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 101).
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.216; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.370. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04666 and T04667).
Powell 1983, p.4.
Identified by Nicola Moorby.
Holcomb 1966, p.66.
Ibid., p.37.
For information on Turner’s supervision of his engravers, see Anne Lyles and Diane Perkins, Colour into Line: Turner and the Art of Engraving, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989 and Eric M. Lee, Translations: Turner and Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1993.
Powell 1983, p.10.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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