Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior of Santa Costanza, Rome


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 130 × 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 25

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell first correctly identified, this sketch depicts an interior view of Santa Costanza, an early Christian fourth-century church which stands near Sant’Agnese fuori le mura on the Via Nomentana, north-east of the historic centre of Rome. The church was originally designed as a mausoleum for Constantina, daughter of the Emperor Constantine, who was later canonised as Santa Costanza. Turner’s sketch shows the view looking towards the sarcophagus (a replica of the original which was moved to the Vatican Museums in 1790) which sits in the centre of a circular arcade of twelve pairs of granite columns (hence Turner’s note ‘24’).1 The diagrammatic detail at the bottom centre of the page is probably a rough plan of the arrangement of these columns. In the bottom left-hand corner is a small study of a sculptural ornamental, possibly from one of the capitals. Turner may have known Piranesi’s print of the interior of Santa Costanza from the Vedute di Roma 1756.2
For sketches of the exterior of the church see folios 35, 61 verso and 62 verso (D16454, D16430 and D16432; Turner Bequest CXC 40, 24a and 25a).

Nicola Moorby
June 2009

Touring club italiano, Roma e Dintorni, 6th edition, Milan 1977, p.319. See photograph in Touring Club Italiano, Attraverso l’Italia Nuova Serie: Rome Parte Seconda, Milan 1960, fig.56, p.39.
Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.896, reproduced p.699.

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