Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior of an Italian Church


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 403 × 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 53

Catalogue entry

The pair of coloured studies on this page and folio 52 (D16140) are unfinished views depicting the interior of an Italian church or cathedral. The details are too rough for the location to be conclusively identified. Finberg suggested that they were views of St Peter’s in Rome.1 However, the forms seem suggestive of austere, narrow and pointed Gothic arches, rather than the ornate vast spaces and round arches evident in Turner’s on-the-spot studies of the basilica in the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16309–D16315; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 83–86) and a later watercolour, Interior of St Peter’s 1821 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York).2 An alternative suggestion was provided by the unknown person who tentatively inscribed the back of the study ‘?Milan Cath[edral]’. The artist also made sketches of the interior of the Duomo in Milan, see the Milan to Venice sketchbook (Tate D14344–D14345, D14488; Turner Bequest CLXXV 12a–13, 90a).
Despite their unfinished nature, the studies reflect Turner’s interest in complex perspective and the experience of looking through interlocking spaces of light and dark. The artist later made similar studies in the Eu and Treport sketchbook, 1845 (see Tate D35442 and D35445; Turner Bequest CCCLIX 7 and 10).3
Finberg 1909, p.556.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.724. Reproduced in Powell 1987, pl.120, p.109.
Butlin, Wilton and Gage 1974, p.88 under no.218. See also Wilton 1975, pp.160–1.
Blank, save for inscription by an unknown hand in pencil ‘clxxxvii. 53’ bottom centre; stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 53’ and Turner Bequest monogram top left, descending left-hand edge.

Nicola Moorby
November 2010

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