Joseph Mallord William Turner

Sketches of Two Women and a Building; and Notes by Turner on the Palazzo Torlonia-Bolognetti, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Support: 115 x 94 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCIII 1

Catalogue entry

This page contains very slight, rough sketches of two female figures, both of whom are carrying pots or baskets on their heads. Also in the bottom left-hand corner, parallel with the left-hand edge, is another faint drawing which appears to depict part of a building. The majority of the sheet, however, is devoted to handwritten pencil notes, much of which is illegible. The inscription, partially transcribed by Finberg,1 reads:
Torlonia Pictures | the first Room 4 good | Cat[...], two indefinite | Claudes, the 2nd Room | good fluid M[...] | with P[...] Pic of [?Steen] | the third artist the | one is Rembrandt | the p[?encil] by G[...] di [...] | the Gallery [?Thorwaldsen] | Borghese V. Verf. the | S.G. Canova F Cam | Cupid and P
Cecilia Powell has suggested that the last part of the inscription indicates that Turner visited the studio of the Danish sculptor, Bertel Thorwaldsen (1770–1844), and that, additionally, he was taken by Antonio Canova (1757–1822) to see the latter’s famous sculpture of Pauline Borghese as Venus Victrix 1805–8 in the Palazzo Borghese.2 However, a more likely explanation is that these comments refer to the Palazzo Torlonia-Bolognetti, an opulent palace which, before its demolition at the beginning of the twentieth century, stood in Piazza Venezia, Rome. Also known during the nineteenth century as the Palazzo Nuova di Torlonia, the palace had been acquired by the Torlonia family in 1807 and lavishly redecorated by many of the most celebrated artists of the period including Thorwaldsen and Canova, and a fresco by Vincenzo Camuccini (1771–1844), depicting the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche.3

Nicola Moorby
March 2011

Finberg 1909, p.574.
Powell 1984, pp.147 and 486 notes 84 and 85; and Powell 1987, pp.61 and 203 notes 49 and 50.
See Charlotte Anne Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, vol.III, fourth edition, Edinburgh 1826, pp.65–6.

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