Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior of St Peter’s, Rome, Looking down the Left Aisle towards the Entrance, from between the Monuments to Innocent XI and Leo XI (Left and Right)


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 86

Catalogue entry

Despite the wide range of subject matter represented within this sketchbook, Turner labelled it the ‘St Peter’s’ sketchbook, a title which derives from a series of eight studies recording scenes from the interior of the famous basilica, see folios 17 verso, 84 and 85–87 (D16189, D16309, and D16311–D16315; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 17a, 83, and 84–86). These sketches, executed swiftly in the relative gloom of the church, are principally concerned with exploring the complex perspective of the architectural arrangement of the building, looking down through the side aisles and nave towards the transepts and the crossing. As Cecilia Powell has written they ‘vividly record the experience of being in the huge, interlocking spaces of a vast building’.1 Turner may have referred to them when painting a finished watercolour for Walter Fawkes, Interior of St. Peter’s, Rome 1821 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York).2
Powell has identified this inverted sketch as a view of the left (southern) side aisle of the basilica, looking towards the entrance from a point between two papal monuments. On the right-hand side is the helmeted figure of Fortitude from the base of the Monument to Leo XI,3 whilst on the left is a very sketchy representation of the Monument to Innocent XI. The detail on the far left-hand side depicts the mane of one of the two lions which support the black marble urn around three statues are arranged.4

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

Powell 1987, p.[41].
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.724; reproduced in colour in Cara Dufour Denison, Peter Dreyer, William M. Griswold et al., From Mantegna to Picasso: Drawings from the Thaw Collection at the Pierpoint Morgan Library, New York, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1996, p.107 no.52

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