Joseph Mallord William Turner

Interior of the Theatre, Herculaneum

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 x 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15890
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 81

Catalogue entry

Despite the fact that it was still largely unexcavated, Turner visited the archaeological site at Herculaneum in 1819.1 Most of the ancient town was still buried underground and virtually the only accessible structure of note was the theatre which could be experienced via a sequence of eighteenth-century tunnels. The artist made a sequence of sketches of the ruins as they appeared in the gloom of these subterranean passages. The details of these studies are generally very rough and schematic, but in this instance it is possible to identify part of the interior of the theatre with the tiered seating of the semi-circular arena, and the arched openings to the adjoining corridors.2 For a fuller description of the theatre at Herculaneum and Turner’s on-the-spot sketches see folio 86 (D15896; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 84).

Nicola Moorby
November 2010

1
See Powell 1984, p.187, and Powell 1987, pp.82–3.
2
See a similar virtual view online at http://www.proxima-veritati.auckland.ac.nz/Herculaneum/split_node_pages/node_208.html, accessed November 2010.

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