Joseph Mallord William Turner

Basilica of Constantine and the Roman Forum, from the Palatine Hill, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 229 x 368 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 53

Catalogue entry

The Palatine Hill was one of the most popular vantage points in Rome and Turner made a large number of studies from the location, recording views of the city seen in all directions. This sketch depicts the prospect seen from the Farnese Gardens (Orti Farnesina) on the north-eastern side, near the Church of San Sebastiano al Palatino. Turner’s view looks north-west across the Forum. Dominating the composition are the vast ruins of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius (erroneously known in the past as the Temple of Peace, hence Finberg’s attribution).1 On the far right-hand side is the church and bell-tower of Santa Francesca Romana, whilst to the left is the square Torre dei Milize and three domes belonging respectively to Santi Luca e Martina, and the two churches flanking Trajan’s column, Santissimo Nome di Maria and Santa Maria di Loreto. The design is similar to one drawn by James Hakewill in 1817, Rome. Temple of Peace from the Orti Farnesina (British School at Rome Library) which Turner would have undoubtedly known from his work on Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour, just before his 1819 trip to Rome.2
Like many pages within this sketchbook, Turner has executed the drawing in pencil over a grey washed background. Brief highlights have been added with small touches of white gouache. Related coloured views can be found on other pages (see Tate D16346, D16356, D16369; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 20, 30, 42).
Finberg 1909, p.563.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the Drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.3.20, p.201 reproduced.
Blank except for traces of grey watercolour wash; stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 53’ centre left.

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

Read full Catalogue entry

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