Joseph Mallord William Turner

Pyramid of Cestius and the Porta San Paolo, Rome, from the Aventine Hill


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 42

Catalogue entry

This sketch represents a view of the Pyramid of Cestius, a funerary monument of white marble built between 18–12 BC for the magistrate Gaius Cestius Epulo and later incorporated into the Aurelian Walls.1 Adjacent on the left are the crenellated towers of the Porta San Paolo, formerly known as the Porta Ostiense. Turner’s viewpoint is to the north of the pyramid from a slightly elevated vantage point on the Aventine Hill. On the right-hand side of the composition is Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill in southern Rome constructed from a Roman pottery dump.
For other sketches of the Pyramid of Cestius see folios 42 verso (D15375) and 45 verso (D15375). See also the Rome and Florence sketchbook (Tate D16500; Turner Bequest CXCI 9) and a related watercolour, Rome, from Monte Testaccio circa 1818 (private collection), engraved for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Views in Italy by John Byrne and published in the same year as Turner’s first visit to the city.2

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.208.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.707; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol.I, no.15 (see Tate T06019). Hakewill’s drawing is not part of the collection in the British School at Rome and therefore it’s whereabouts is unknown. See 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, p.425.

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