Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches in the Bay of Baiae, Including the So-Called Temples of Diana and Venus


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 122 x 197 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 78 a

Catalogue entry

This page contains sketches within the Bay of Baiae, an ancient Roman bathing resort approximately ten miles west of Naples. The viewpoint for both studies appears to be near the so-called Temple of Mercury. The upper drawing represents the view looking north with the so-called Temple of Diana, a ruined bath-house with a concave roof. The lower meanwhile depicts the prospect looking in the opposite direction, south-east across the bay towards the Posillipo coastline and the distant island of Nisida. Rising on the headland to the left is a fortress known as the Castello di Baia, whilst on the far right-hand side is the octagonal ruin known as the Temple of Venus. On the far left-hand side of the page is part of a separate landscape composition which has spilled over from the opposite sheet, see folio 81 (D15715; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 79).
Turner made a large number of sketches of Baiae and its ancient monuments, see folios 79 verso–80, 81, 82, 84 verso–89 verso, 92 (D15712–D15713, D15715, D15717, D15722–D15732 and D15737; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 77a–78, 79, 80, 82a–87a and 90). These drawings formed the compositional basis of one of three oil paintings completed in the months and years following Turner’s return from his first tour of Italy, The Bay of Baiae, with Apollo and the Sibyl exhibited 1823 (Tate, N00505).1 Indeed the finished picture features a vista very similar to that depicted here and repeated within other on-the-spot drawings, and it is therefore possible that the artist was already planning the composition during his visit to the area.2
A number of scholars have followed John Gage’s suggestion that the dark dots covering this sheet were made by a shower of hot volcanic ash, probably dating from Turner’s ascent of Vesuvius, see folio 46 verso (D15645; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 44a).3 More recently, however, James Hamilton has argued the marks were made by a spattering of a ‘light inky paint’.4

Nicola Moorby
June 2010

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.230.
Powell 1984, pp.188, 247–8 and Powell 1987, pp.83 and 120.
See for example Gage 1969, p.131; Powell 1984, pp.180 and 492 note 42; Powell 1987, p.79 and Anthony Bailey, Standing in the Sun: A Life of J.M.W. Turner, London 1997, p.246.
Hamilton 1998, p.135 note 28.

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