Joseph Mallord William Turner

Arch of Titus, Rome, with the Colosseum Beyond


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 229 × 369 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 44

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is a view of the western façade of the Arch of Titus taken from the Via Sacra looking towards the Colosseum. Turner’s back would have been towards the Roman Forum and visible on the left-hand side is the church and bell-tower of Santa Francesca Romana. Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has made effective use of tonal contrast with dark areas of cross hatched pencil and pale highlights created by scratching through to the white paper beneath.
Turner made a large number of studies of the Arch of Titus, a triumphal monument erected to commemorate the sack of Jerusalem by the Emperor Titus in the first century AD. During the early nineteenth century the integrity of the structure was disrupted by the remains of medieval stone walls and unsightly accumulations of rubble abutting the sides. These were cleared in the early 1820s by Giuseppe Valadier (1762–1839) who restored the Arch to something approaching its original (and present) appearance. This sketch reflects the appearance of the Arch prior to its restoration although Turner seems to have reduced the size of the accretions on the left in order to display more of the exterior of the Colosseum. Drawings depicting the eastern façade can be found on another sheet from this sketchbook (see Tate D16370; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 43) and in the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16395; Turner Bequest CXC 1). Finally sketches of the sculptural panels from the interior can be found in the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16191–D16192; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 18a–9).
?Blank (pasted to mount).

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

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