Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the Decorations of Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican: including Two Sketches of the Bust of Raphael by Alessandro d’Este


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 24

Catalogue entry

One of the most significant series of studies dating from Turner’s 1819 trip to Rome was the sequence of on-the-spot pencil sketches relating to the Loggia of Raphael, a colonnaded porch on the second floor of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, decorated by Raphael (1483–1520) and his studio. Turner made a closely detailed visual record of the loggia, particularly concentrating on the southern end of the interior and the decoration of the first three bays and window arches, see folios 13 verso–21 (D14955–D14965). From these drawings evolved the artist’s first finished oil painting following his Italian tour, the vast canvas Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).1 This page contains several sketches recording various components within the loggia, and hence relating to the evolution and composition of the painting.
As first identified by Cecilia Powell, the principal subject on the right-hand side of the sheet is a portrait bust of the Renaissance master, Raphael (1483–1520) by Alessandro d’Este (1787–1826), the son of the Director of the Vatican Museums.2 This sculpture had recently been given to the Vatican by Antonio Canova (1757–1822), and had been displayed on a plinth at the southern end of the loggia to commemorate Raphael’s role in the creation of the decorative fresco scheme.3 Turner has depicted it in two variant views, from the front and in three-quarter profile. The inscription in the top right-hand corner above the drawing, ‘PAULUS.III.PONT.MAX’, comes from the lintel of the fictive marble frame painted around the real marble door frame behind the bust.4 Powell has suggested that it may have been the presence of this statue which provided Turner with the germ of the idea for depicting the figure of Raphael in Rome from the Vatican, although the unusually focused and comprehensive nature of the related loggia sketches strongly suggests that the artist had already conceived the idea for the picture when he visited the Vatican and that he was specifically gathering material with the concept already well advanced in his mind. In other drawings he also showed the bust within its architectural context, see folio 13 verso (D14955), and the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16368; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 41), although in the final composition the plinth stands empty since the figure of the artist is made flesh within the foreground. Turner still seems to have made use of his studies of the bust however, as a source for Raphael’s features.5
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
Powell 1984, p.148 and Powell 1987, p.117, pl.127.
McVaugh 1987, p.372.
Bernice F. Davidson, ‘Pope Paul III’s Additions to Raphael’s Logge: His Imprese in the Logge’, The Art Bulletin, vol.61, no.3, September 1979, pp.392–3.
Powell 1984, p.149.
See Davidson 1979, p.393 and Nicole Dacos, Le Logge di Rafaello: Maestro e bottega di fronte all’antico, Rome 1977, Tav.LV, ‘a) Pennacchi II.1’.
See the watercolour by Giovanni Volpato, reproduced in colour in Giorgio Marini, Nicole Dacos, Michel Hochmann, Annie Gilet et al., Giovanni Volpato: Les Loges de Raphaël et la Galerie du Palais Farnèse, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours 2007, no.2, p.129, as ‘Lunette et Porte de la travée I’.
Warrell 1991, pp.36–8.

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop