Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin

Rome: The Colonnade of St Peter’s


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Thomas Girtin 1775–1802
Gouache and watercolour on paper
Support: 400 × 433 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 7

Catalogue entry

Probably commissioned by Dr Thomas Monro
Monro’s posthumous sale, Christie’s, London, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known)
Bought by or on behalf of Turner
Like most of the Italian subjects in this group, the Piazza of St Peter’s was not to be seen by Turner for over twenty years. The view, with many diminutive figures, is taken from the south side of Bernini’s colonnade, looking north towards the Vatican buildings, at the top of which is the open, arcaded Loggia in which he was to set his large picture of 1820, Rome, from the Vatican (Tate N00503),1 where the Piazza is seen from above.
Wilton suggested that this drawing was the work of Turner alone, and invented by him.2 It seems probable, however, that the pencil work is, as usual with drawings of the ‘Monro School’ type, by Girtin, with washes added by Turner. It is therefore, like the rest, presumably a copy rather than an original invention. The fact that this is an essentially accurate architectural subject, though with greatly exaggerated scale, indicates a source in one of the painters of architectural capricci in eighteenth-century Rome, such as Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691–1765).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, pp.137–8 no.228, pl.231 (colour).
Wilton 1980, p.[113].
Blank; stamped in brown ink with Turner Bequest monogram; inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘[?22]’.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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