Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Architectural and Ornamental Details ?from the Vatican Museums; and a view of St Peter’s, Rome, from the Janiculum Hill


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 1 a

Catalogue entry

On the right-hand side of the page is a part of a sketch of St Peter’s seen from the Janiculum Hill. Turner has inscribed the drawing with the name ‘Villa Lante’, a Renaissance summer-house with a famous vantage point over the city. An epigram by the ancient poet, Valerius Martial, carved above a doorway in the loggia testifies to the fame of the prospect: ‘HINC TOTAM LICET AESTIMARE ROMAM’ [Here one can take the measure of all Rome].1 However, Turner’s view here was actually taken further north than the Villa Lante, at a point near the oak of Torquato Tasso, see folio 2 (D16159).
The rest of the page is dominated by studies of ornamental and architectural detailing including sculptural busts on plinths, details of a frieze with festoons and mythological figures, and the base of a column. Finberg tentatively identified them as the work of Giulio Romano in the Villa Lante, but this seems to have purely have been a speculative connection to the inscribed annotation. Instead, the sketches may relate to works of art seen in the Vatican Museums. During his stay in Rome Turner made extensive records of the various works of art he observed there, particularly in the Vatican Fragments sketchbooks (see Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXX). The details seen here bear some resemblance to the column bases and plinths seen in an etching after Louis Ducros, Cortile del Belvedere con Laocoonte 1787–92 (Pfaueninsel Palace, Berlin),2 and in drawings of sculptures and bas-reliefs from the Vatican collections by James Hakewill.3

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

Quoted in James F. O’Gorman, ‘The Villa Lante in Rome; Some Drawings and Some Observations’, Burlington Magazine, vol.113, no.816, March 1971, p.133.
Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissanas et al, Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros 1748–1810, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood 1985, reproduced fig.10, p.38. See also pp.[80–1].
See for example, 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.5M.7 and 5M.26, pp.300 and 324 reproduced.

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