Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments and Reliefs from the Vatican Museums, Including an Acroterion from a Tomb and Part of a Grave Altar


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 161 × 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 12

Catalogue entry

During his 1819 stay in Rome, one of Turner’s most extensive sketching campaigns was the large number of pencil studies made from the sculpture collections of the Vatican Museums (for a general discussion, see the introduction to the sketchbook). This page contains sketches of two objects from the Museo Chiaramonti and Museo Pio-Clementino. The studies are numbered from top left to bottom right:
Cecilia Powell has identified the top sketch as an acroterion,1 from a tomb in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti.2 Generally designed to be placed at the apex of a pediment, an acroterion is an architectural ornament placed on a flat base, here in the form of a statue mounted within a decorative pedestal. Turner has numbered the object ‘1818’.
The bottom sketch represents part of a richly ornamented grave altar which today can be found in the collections of the Museo Pio-Clementino.3 The artist has numbered the object ‘1076’.
Turner’s annotated numbers presumably relate to exhibit numbers displayed on the individual works. However, they do not appear to correspond to any known lists published within contemporary guide books or catalogues of the Vatican collections.

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

Powell 1984, p.413.
See Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.198, pp.301–2, reproduced pl.30.
See Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Bildkatalog der Skulpturen des Vatikanischen Museum: Museo Pio Clementino Cortile Ottagono, Berlin and New York 1998, vol.II, no.PN 4, reproduced pl.388.

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