Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments and Reliefs from the Vatican Museums, Including the Sarcophagus of M. Sulpicius Pylades


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 7

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 three or four distinct objects, which were probably found in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti. The studies are numbered from top left to bottom right:
Cecilia Powell has identified the largest sketch on the page as depicting the sarcophagus of M. Sulpicius Pylades,1 found in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti.2 Turner has recorded the Latin inscriptions from the object as ‘DM | M SYL’ at the top, and ‘PICUS | LADIS’ within the shield. The first part translates as ‘D[is] M[anibus]’, ‘To the spirits of the departed’, and is a common phrase found on Roman funerary monuments.
The sketch in the bottom left-hand corner appears to depict part of an unidentified funerary altar.
The bottom centre sketch represents the top of another unidentified funerary altar
In the bottom right-hand corner, parallel with the bottom of the page, is an unidentified monument which Turner has inscribed with an indecipherable annotation ‘[...?nide] and [?Lo...].

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

Powell 1984, p.412.
See Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.159, pp.282–3, reproduced pl.29.

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