Joseph Mallord William Turner

Florence, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 242 × 305 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 156

Catalogue entry

This vignette appears as the headpiece for the twenty-third section of Rogers’s Italy, entitled ‘Florence’.1 It was engraved by Edward Goodall, who was one of the most prolific and skilled interpreters of Turner’s designs.2 Goodall produced plates for nearly all of Turner’s print commissions, engraving eleven out of the twenty-five designs that the artist made for Italy. According to Luke Herrmann, Turner and Goodall’s partnership was at its most effective in Florence and another Italy vignette, Venice (see Tate D27710; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 193).3
Rogers devotes most of his verses on Florence to praising the city’s artistic heroes – Masaccio, Raphael, Ghiberti, and Michelangelo – and ends with a tribute to Filippo Strozzi, who helped to lead a republican uprising against the Medici rule in 1527. However, the poet opens the sections with a brief description of the city itself:
Of all the fairest Cities of the Earth
None is so fair as Florence. ’Tis a gem
Of purest ray; and what a light broke forth,
When it emerged from darkness! Search within.
Without; all is enchantment! ’Tis the Past
Contending with the Present; and in turn
Each has the mastery.
(Italy, p.102)
Rogers’s bold celebration of Florence’s beauty may have come as a surprise to some of his readers. As Cecilia Powell has written, English visitors during the nineteenth century such as William Hazlitt, often judged the city harshly, finding the narrow streets claustrophobic and the architecture dark and oppressive.4 Roger’s poem suggests that it was Florence’s cultural treasures, rather than its overall physical appearance, that made it an essential stop for those on the Grand Tour.5 In fact, Turner produced a preparatory study of the Ponte Vecchio with the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio shown nearby (see Tate D27612; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 95) and it seems likely that he intended this composition to complement Rogers’s lengthy description of the city’s artistic riches. In the end, however, Turner illustrated ‘Florence’ with a traditional distant view of the city seen from the nearby hill town of Fiesole.
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.102.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.359. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04647 and T04678).
Luke Herrmann, Turner Prints: The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 1990, p.184.
Powell 1983, p.5. See also The Complete Works of William Hazlitt, ed. P.P. Howe, vol.10, London 1932, p.212.
David Blayney Brown, The Art of J.M.W. Turner, London 1990, p.168.
Piggott 1993, p.37.
Powell 1983, pp.4–5
Wilton 1979, no.715.
See 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.2.40, p.157 reproduced.
Wilton 1979, no.726; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.319. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T05105 and T06138).
Powell 1983, p.10.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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