Joseph Mallord William Turner

Notes and Sketches relating to the Farnese Gallery, Palazzo Farnese, Rome


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 3

Catalogue entry

As Finberg first identified, the notes and sketches on this page refer to frescoes in the Palazzo Farnese, specifically the Farnese Gallery’s Loves of the Gods cycle, 1597–1604, by Annibale Carracci (1560–1609) and his followers. In his written inscriptions Turner makes comments upon Hyacinthus Borne to the Heavens by Apollo, Jupiter and Juno, The Rape of Ganymede by Jupiter’s Eagle, Venus and Anchises, and Polyphemus Innamorato (which depicts Polyphemus playing the pan pipes). The reference to ‘Galatea’, which the artist describes as ‘fine’, may allude to either of the two paintings depicting the story of Polyphemus and Galatea from the short end walls, or it may refer to Venus and Triton (also sometimes known as Glaucus and Scylla), which was originally misidentified as Galatea.1 The circular notations punctuating his remarks are part of a shorthand system for classifying paintings which also appears in the Route to Rome sketchbook (see Tate D13881 and D13884; Turner Bequest CLXXI 13 and 14a). Cecilia Powell has identified that there are three categories denoted by a circle, an encircled period, and an encircled cross, although the respective values of these symbols are not known.2
In addition, Turner has made swift notational sketches of selected parts of the north-east end of the gallery. In the top right-hand corner, parallel with the right-hand edge is a study of The Fall of Icarus, from the far end of the lower eastern (door) wall,3 whilst at the bottom of the page is Venus and Triton (or Glaucus and Syclla), the central panel on the eastern side of the ceiling by Carracci’s brother, Agostino.4 On the left-hand side, parallel with the left-hand edge, is a record of the north-eastern corner of the ceiling, including The Rape of Ganymede by Jupiter’s Eagle, flanked by the figures of satyrs. Beneath this is a figure of a bearded man which appears to be part of Jupiter and Juno from the far end of the eastern wall,5 incorrectly aligned to the left (instead of the right) to Lovers Wrestling for the Palm of Venus and a medallion of Apollo and Marsyas.6 According to the layout of the gallery this bearded figure ought to represent Polyphemus Furioso, but the orientation of the pose does not correspond to the details of this fresco. The drawing spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 2 verso (D15109), which appears to indicate the fresco of Perseus and Phineas from the northern end wall.7

Nicola Moorby
December 2009

Charles Dempsey, Annibale Carracci: The Farnese Gallery, Rome, New York 1995, p.56.
Powell 1984, p.152 and Powell 1987, p.65.
See Dempsey 1995, reproduced in colour p.[86].
Ibid., reproduced in colour p.[57].
Ibid., reproduced in colour pp.[34] and [75].
Ibid., reproduced p.36.
Ibid., reproduced in colour p.[96].

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like