Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the Decorations of Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican: The Frescoes of ‘Raphael’s Bible’ from the Third Vault of the Ceiling


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 18

Catalogue entry

The sketches on this page represent the decorative fresco scheme in the third ceiling vault of the Loggia of Raphael in the Vatican. This is comprised of four scenes from ‘Raphael’s Bible’ as well as other elements, including, anti-clockwise from the bottom:
The Building of the Ark by Giulio Romano (circa 1499–1546) and Giovanfrancesco Penni (1488/96–1528).1 Turner has inscribed the sketch ‘Pier’ and ‘B’, and ‘Sleeve L B | Yellow with Lake S’, and has additionally noted above the scene ‘fruit of Sculptor’.
The Flood (or The Deluge) by Bartolomeo di David (1482–circa 1545),2 inscribed ‘Yellow’, ‘V Light’ and ‘V Dark’, ‘Grey’ and ‘Green’.
Leaving the Ark by Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564).3 Variously inscribed ‘[?Boch...]’, ‘White with Pink Shads’, ‘x Green’, ‘Gr’, ‘L’, ‘Br | V’, and ‘Gr | Green’.
The Sacrifice of Noah by Giulio Romano and Bartolomeo di David.4 Inscribed to the left of the scene ‘9 | White | Columns | [?View] and | Spotted | V Brown and Red | Shadows’, and with various colour notes within the scene ‘V Light’, ‘G’, ‘G’, ‘G’, ‘R’, ‘VL’, ‘La’ and ‘Light Blue in the | Lights’.
The architectural details in the bottom left-hand corner represent the trompe l’oeil fresco of columns, repeated in each of the four corners. Turner has labelled this part ‘V3’, to remind him that it is the third vault of the loggia.
The panel in the centre of the vault depicts a winged victory or angel carrying a yoke. Turner has inscribed the sketch with colour notes including ‘G’ and ‘Gold’ in the centre and ‘Or’ within the ornamental border. To the right and top of the figure he has recorded the position of the respective Biblical frescoes ‘Deluge’ and ‘Going into the Ark’.
The Sacrifice of Noah and the trompe l’oeil architectural details in the corner spandrels are clearly visible in Turner’s painted recreation of the loggia within the right-hand side of the composition of Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).5 Turner has also depicted the Building of the Ark as a separate canvas which appears in the foreground of the picture, held by the figure of Raphael, who looks upwards in the direction of its actual position in the ceiling.6 Mordechai Omer has argued that the story of Noah represented a particular iconographical significance for Turner, with the building of the ark symbolising the contemplative and physical activities of making a work of art.7 Finley meanwhile has attributed Turner’s use of the Building of the Ark to the artist’s belief in the redemptive power of art, off-setting the carnal and material aspects of Raphael’s life.8

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

Nicole Dacos, Le Logge di Rafaello: Maestro e bottega di fronte all’antico, Rome 1977, no.III.1, reproduced, Tav.XV and Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, New York and London 2008, pl.107, p.147.
Dacos 1977, no.III.2, reproduced Tav.XVI and Dacos 2008, pl.108, p.148.
Dacos 1977, no.III.3, reproduced Tav.XVII and Dacos 2008, pl.109, p.149.
Dacos 1977, no.III.4, reproduced Tav.XVIII and Dacos 2008, pl.110, pl.150.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
See Omer 1975, detail reproduced fig.3, p.[695].
Ibid., p.697.
Gerald Finley, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s “Rome from the Vatican”: A Palimpsest of History’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol.49, 1986, pp.68–9.
Omer 1975, p.694; McVaugh 1987, p.327 note 21.

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