Joseph Mallord William Turner

Piazza della Madonna, Loreto, with the Santuario della Santa Casa


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 14

Catalogue entry

The first significant place of interest on the route to Rome from Ancona was Loreto, a famous site of Catholic pilgrimage. Turner made a large number of sketches in and around the city, see folio 10 (D14671). This page contains details and inscriptions from the historical heart of the city, the fifteenth-century basilica of the Santuario della Santa Casa which stands at the eastern end of a Renaissance square designed by Bramante, the Piazza della Madonna. Like many English tourists, Turner was fascinated by the Santuario and its most celebrated relic, the shrine of the Holy House. According to legend, the house was the home of the Virgin Mary which was transported from Palestine by a host of angels during the thirteenth century.
Here Turner has depicted the Renaissance façade of the Santuario from the south-west corner of the Piazza. The grand scale of the architecture is offset by the inclusion of three tiny figures at the bottom of the steps leading up to the façade. In the left-hand foreground is a fountain, built 1604–14, which stands in the centre of the square. Decorated with bronze dragons, this feature was designed by Carlo Maderno and Giovanni Fontana, the same architects who built the tunnels and aqueducts which supplied the town with water from Recanati. With typical economy Turner has drawn only a small detailed section of the building on the left, the north wing of the Palazzo Apostolico. He has then noted to himself that the remainder is comprised of ‘13’ two-storey arches. The height of the page has not allowed him to complete the adjacent bell-tower designed by Vanvitelli and instead he has added the top separately by the side.
The inscriptions on either side of the church dome come from the central cornice on the façade directly below the two clocks and relate to two different modes of telling the time. ‘ASTRONOM’ on the right, represents the European hour with the day divided by two sets of twelve hours. ‘ITALICUM’ on the left refers to the Italian hour where the clock shows just six hours with one pointer which indicated the amount of time left before sunset.

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

Read full Catalogue entry

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