Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Sculptured Reliefs from the Northern Façade and Central Bay of the Arch of Constantine, 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 20

Catalogue entry

Like many other ancient monuments in the Roman Forum, Turner made a detailed study of the Arch of Constantine, a triumphal arch which stands at the eastern end of the Forum, near to the Colosseum. In the top left-hand corner of this page is a sketch of the inner panel on the west side of the central archway. The bas-relief shows a battle scene representing Trajan’s Dacian Wars. Turner has also transcribed the inscription above the panel, although his record is slightly inaccurate. The text on the arch reads ‘LIBERATORIVRBIS’, meaning ‘To the Liberator of the City’.
The remaining details relate to the front and left side panels of the column bases at either side of the lateral arches on the north face. In the top right-hand corner and the bottom left-hand corner of the page are sculptures from the left lateral arch, whilst in the bottom centre and right-hand corner are panels from the right lateral arch. These show the winged figure of Victory in various poses (on the frontal sections), flanked by prisoners and soldiers (on the side sections). Turner drew the panels from the right-hand side of the bases on another page, see folio 22 (D16195).
For other sketches of the Arch of Constantine see folio 18 (D16190).

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

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