Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches in the Via dei Sepolcri, Pompeii

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15748
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 6

Catalogue entry

This page contains three distinct sets of sketches which are all related to Turner’s exploration of the Via dei Sepolcri (Street of the Tombs) in Pompeii. As Cecilia Powell has discussed, the artist made a significant number of drawings from various angles up and down the street, and consequently some of the ancient tombs appear repeatedly in different views.1 Top right is a view of the north side of the street (left as you look towards the Porta Ercolano and the walls of Pompeii) including, from left to right, the tombs of Velasius Gratus, Lucius Libella and his son, and an unknown tomb with a marble door. Visible in the background is part of a ruined arcade which stands in front of the remains of a row of shops. Some of the same structures can also be seen on the right-hand side of the lower sketch which depicts the vista looking west down the street, away from the main city, towards the Villa of Diomedes. On the left-hand side of the road are, from left to right, part of a round mausoleum of an unknown person, the Tomb of Calventius Quietus (with the ornamental wreath decoration), and the Tomb of Naevoleia Tyche. These monuments are placed within walled enclosures.2
Finally, on the far left-hand side of the page is a study of the Tomb of Naevoleia Tyche which represents part of the composition on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 6 (D15747). Further sketches of the Via dei Sepolcri can be found on folios 5, 6 verso–10 (D15746, D15749–D15755). For a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

1
Powell 1987, p.82.
2
Compare the engravings after 1817 and 1818 drawings by Major Cockburn, ‘Tombs of Calventius Quietus and Naevoleia Tyche’, and ‘Tomb of Lucius Libella and of his Son’, in Pompeii, Illustrated with Picturesque Views, Engraved by W.B. Cooke, from the Original Drawings of Liet. Col. Cockburn, of the Royal Artillery, vol.II, London 1827, pl.37 and pl.39, between pp.26–7.

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