Joseph Mallord William Turner

Inside the Theatre, Herculaneum, with the Inscription to Marcus Nonius Balbus


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 83 a

Catalogue entry

The location of this sketch of Herculaneum can be identified from the Latin inscription, which as Cecilia Powell first noted, came from the theatre, one of the only places during the early nineteenth century where anything of note could be seen.1 Turner has transcribed the text from a pedestal on right-hand side of proscenium (stage): ‘M. NONIO. M.F. BALBO | PR.PRO.COS | HERCVLANENSES’,2 which once supported a statue robed in a toga, representing the son of M. Nonius Balbus, a senator and important patron in Herculaneum.3 For a full description of the theatre and Turner’s sketches see folio 86 (D15896; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 84).
In the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet, another person has provided an English explanation of the inscription. The unknown author appears to be the same hand as that on a sketch of Virgil’s Tomb at Posillipo, see folio 70 (D15865; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 68).4 Another comment relating to the theatre can be seen on folio 86 (D15896; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 84).

Nicola Moorby
November 2010

Powell 1984, p.496 note 82.
E.R. Barker, Buried Herculaneum, London 1908, p.192. The dedication translates as ‘The men of Herculaneum, to Marcus Nonius Balbus, son of Marcus, praetor and proconsul’. See also, accessed November 2010.
The pedestal and inscription can be seen in an illustration in Guide to Herculaneum Illustrated, Pompeii 1870, opposite p.25.
See Gage 1974, p.87 note 52.

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