Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketch of a Sculptured Panel from the Arch of Titus, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 19

Catalogue entry

Like many other ancient monuments in the Roman Forum, Turner made a detailed study of the Arch of Titus, a triumphal arch which stands on the Via Sacra, to the south-east of the Roman Forum. Turner has here recorded the sculptured relief from the southern side of the entrance to the Arch of Titus, a scene depicting the soldiers of Emperor Titus bearing spoils from the sack of Jerusalem. Clearly visible are objects of Jewish significance such as the menorah. In the top right-hand corner Turner has drawn an additional small study of the tympanum in the top right-hand corner of the Arch with part of the entablature above. Although roughly drawn, the sketch shows the winged deity in bas-relief and the egg and dart detailing on the entablature.
Turner’s sketches of the Arch of Titus informed his later oil painting, Forum Romanum exhibited 1826 (Tate, N00504).1 However, as Cecilia Powell has discussed, the disorganised nature of his sketchbooks presented him with problems during the composition of the piece.2 It was not his habit to record where the individual scenes belonged in situ and consequently he transposed the wrong bas-relief onto the southern side of the arch. The painting should have shown the panel represented by this sketch, but instead Turner depicted the scene of the triumphal procession with the emperor’s chariot and horses, see folio 18 verso (D16191). For other studies of the Arch of Titus see the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16395; Turner Bequest CXC 1) and the Roman Colour Studies sketchbook (Tate D16370 and D16372; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 43 and 44).

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.233.
Powell 1987, pp.56–7.

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