Joseph Mallord William Turner

Landscape Views from the Via Appia between Rome and Naples; Nemi, and Cicero’s Tomb near Formia


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 161 × 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 29

Catalogue entry

In addition to using the Vatican Fragments sketchbook to record details of art and architecture in Rome, Turner also appears to have employed it on several occasions during his journey to or from Naples. This page contains several landscape views from the route between the two cities on the Via Appia. The rough nature of Turner’s draughtsmanship and the way in which the artist has crammed the successive drawings onto a single page, suggests that they must have been executed at speed, possibly from a moving carriage.
The sketch at the top of the page is part of a view of Lake Nemi, approximately eighteen miles south-east of Rome. The view continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 29 verso (D15160; Turner Bequest CLXXX 28a).
The subject of the central sketch is the so-called Tomb of Cicero, a large mausoleum on the Via Appia, one mile west of Formia. Comprised of a square base upon which is set a crumbling cone, it is popularly believed to be the tomb of the Roman orator and philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), but despite the fact that he is documented as meeting his death in Formia, there is no concrete evidence to support this. A villa connected with him is also believed to have stood in the vicinity. See also folios 1 verso (D15106; Turner Bequest CLXXX 1a), and a near-contemporaneous drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Tomb of Cicero nr Mola di Gaeta, ?1817 (British School at Rome Library).1 Turner had listed the monument amongst his notes taken from Revd John Chetwode Eustace’s A Classical Tour Through Italy, and had furthermore made a thumbnail pen-and-ink copy of a view after John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), see the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13954 and D13968; Turner Bequest CLXXII 12a and 20). Cicero was obviously a historical figure who interested him. He later produced a finished oil painting, Cicero at his Villa exhibited 1839 (private collection).2
The sketch at the bottom of the page is also part of a view featuring the Tomb of Cicero. The vista continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 29 verso (D15160; Turner Bequest CLXXX 28a). The site was described by Octavian Blewitt in his Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy, published 1853:
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.39, reproduced p.265.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.381, reproduced.
Octavian Blewitt, Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy, London 1853, p.76.
Compare a painting by James Giles (1801–70), Cicero’s Tomb at the Bay of Gaeta 1837, Aberdeen Art Gallery,, accessed December 2009.

Nicola Moorby
December 2009

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