Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details from the Eastern Façade of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Forum, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 34

Catalogue entry

This page contains a number of sketches of details from the eastern face of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Forum, see folio 33 (D15356). Clockwise from top left these are: the top left-hand corner of the attic with the ‘IM’ of the Latin inscription; the panel reliefs above the left side arch showing scenes from the Parthian wars; the span of the central arch including the keystone, two winged Victories within the spandrels and a detail from the coffered ceiling; three figures from the base of one of the columns; the panel reliefs above the right side arch; Parthian prisoners on the right column base on the left side arch; the top of one of the Corinthian columns; and the right-hand corner of the entablature. Parts of the Arch are worn away including, as Turner has noted, the fluted detail on the some of the columns. Turner transcribed the Latin text from this side of the Arch on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 33 verso (D15357).
The excavation of the Arch had commenced in the early nineteenth century and many of Turner’s 1819 sketches seem to show the monument still partially embedded to the level of the bottom of the columns, see folios 33, 57 and 65 verso (D15356, D15405 and D15422), and St Peter’s sketchbook (Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 24; Tate D16201) and Small Roman Colour Studies sketchbook (Turner Bequest CXC 13a; Tate D16412). However, his studies of the bas-relief panels on the column bases reveal that the eastern façade at least must have been almost fully uncovered. This confirmed by another sketch in the Small Roman Colour Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16408; Turner Bequest CXC 11a).
For a general discussion of Turner’s depictions of the Forum see folio 32 (D15355).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

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