Joseph Mallord William Turner

Six Sketches of Views from the Palatine Hill, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 229 × 368 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 55 a

Catalogue entry

The Palatine Hill was one of the most popular vantage points in Rome and Turner made a large number of studies from the location, recording prospects of the city seen in all directions. The main sketch on this page depicts a view from the southern side of the hill looking west. The right-hand foreground is dominated by part of the crumbling exedra of the Hippodromus Palatii, from the Domus Augustana (part of the Palace of Domitian), and the vista opens out to a view across the River Tiber and Trastevere on the left. Visible landmarks include, from left to right: part of the Circus Maximus in the bottom left-hand corner; the churches of Trastevere including the pointed bell-tower of San Crisogono; the Janiculum Hill crowned by trees; in the middle distance, the Romanesque bell-tower of Santa Maria in Cosmedin; the Isola Tiberina and Ponte Sisto (with its central occulus); the buildings of the Forum Boarium, including the circular Temple of Hercules Victor; and the Church of Sant’Anastasia with its decorative posts adorning the roof. To the immediate right of the church, Turner has also noted the location of the ‘Arch of Janus’, a four-sided triumphal arch which stands in the Forum Boarium near the Church of San Giorgio in Velabro. Rising in the distance above the rest of the city is the unmistakeable silhouette of the dome of St Peter’s.
In addition to the large view described above, there are five other smaller studies on this page of ruins and vistas of the Palatine Hill. These include, in the bottom right-hand corner, a repetition of the view looking towards St Peter’s and, in the top left-hand corner, the view looking south towards the Aventine Hill and the Pyramid of Cestius. Further related sketches can be found on another sheet within this sketchbook (see D40050; verso of Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 42), in the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16418–D16419; Turner Bequest CXC 16a–17), and in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (see Tate D15392–D15393 and D15440–D15441; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 50a–1 and 74a–5). The depicted panoramas are also similar to those in two drawings by James Hakewill, both titled Rome, Ruins of the Palace of the Caesars on the Palatine Hill 1817 (British School at Rome), which Turner would almost certainly have known from collaborating with the artist on Hakewill’s Picturesque Views of Italy in 1818–19.1

Nicola Moorby
October 2009

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, nos.3.10 and 3.11, pp.188, 189 reproduced.

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