Joseph Mallord William Turner

Details of the Entablature of the Colonnacce, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 16

Catalogue entry

On this page Turner has recorded the details of the bas-relief sculptures from the ruined portico in the Forum of Nerva known as Le Colonnacce. In the top right-hand corner is a sketch of the image of the goddess Minerva found in the attic space between the two Corinthian columns. The rest are details from the frieze depicting activities and stories related to the goddess including scenes of women spinning and weaving, and illustrations from the legend of Arachne who was turned into a spider after incurring Minerva’s wrath.1 As Turner’s drawings show many of the panels had deteriorated over the centuries and consequently many of the figures are headless. For a full discussion of the monument see folio 15 verso (D16187).
Cecilia Powell has noted that Turner’s sketches of the frieze here, and partially in situ on the previous page, may have presented problems when attempting to recreate their relationship as a whole later on.2 The individual components do not follow a logical order and is unlikely that Turner would have remembered which part related to where on the monument. The uppermost portion for example records the central section of the frieze, and the inner face above the left-hand column. The left-hand sketch in the middle belongs to the inner and frontal faces above the right-hand column but the middle-right sketch relates to the section on the wall to the right of the portico. Finally the sketch at the bottom of the page records the stretch on the outer side above the right-hand column.
Elsewhere on the page Turner has also drawn a small view of the buildings surrounding the Colonnacce, including in the background the arches of part of the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum, formerly known as the Temple of Peace (Tempio della Pace). To the right of this is another very faint outline sketch of the Colonnacce seen from an oblique angle at the side.
See Eva D’Ambra, Private Lives, Imperial Virtues: The Frieze of the Forum Transitorium in Rome, Princeton 1993.
Powell 1987, p.57.

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like