Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inscriptions by Turner: Notes on Ancient Sculpture


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 87 × 117 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXIV 69 a

Catalogue entry

The top half of the page is taken up with the following notes:
Monte Cavalio figure 19 ½ high | the Head 8 ¼ leg 5 feet 6 .. | The Baso Rilivo belong to Ld Cawdor | Sculpture ancient brought from | Rome
Maurice Davies has noted that various sculptures and bas reliefs were addressed in early drafts of Turner’s first perspective lecture,1 delivered at the Royal Academy in January 1811 (see the Introduction to the sketchbook).
Two giant marble statues, called variously ‘Alexander and Bucephalus’ (Alexander the Great’s horse), with both supposedly depicted twice, ‘Castor and Pollux’ (the ‘Dioscuri’), the ‘Horse Tamers’ and so on, stand in the Piazza del Quirinale, Rome. The area was formerly known on their account as Monte Cavallo – ‘cavallo’ being the Italian for ‘horse’. They were formerly attributed to Phidias and Praxiteles, following Roman inscriptions to that effect.2 In 1819, Turner drew the statues in the St Peter’s sketchbook on his first visit to Rome (Tate D16278; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 67). Monte Cavallo is also mentioned in the contemporary Perspective sketchbook (Tate D07408, D07459; Turner Bequest CVIII 33a, 61a).
John Campbell, 1st Baron Cawdor (1755–1821), travelled extensively in Italy and was the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova’s first British patron.3

Matthew Imms
January 2012

Davies 1994, p.290.
Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500–1900, New Haven and London 1981, pp.136–[141], figs.71 and 72.
See under ‘Antonio Canova (1757–1822): Fountain Nymph (Ninfa delle fontane), 1815–17’, The Royal Collection, accessed 16 January 2012,

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