Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including a Relief with Three Youths and Two Friezes with Scenes Showing the Labours of Hercules


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 40 a

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 objects found in the Museo Pio-Clementino. The studies are numbered from top left to bottom right:
Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of the sketch in the top left-hand corner as a sculptural relief with the figures of three youths.1 Today the object can be found in the Gabinetto delle Maschere (Cabinet of Masks).2 Turner has transcribed the inscription along the top of the object as ‘VOCOX SOYC AB¿¿HTRIOC [?VNECO]VF’. The drawing is also annotated with the number ‘921’.
Powell has identified the sketches in the centre of the page as representing a frieze depicting the Labours of Hercules,3 also from the Gabinetto delle Maschere.4 Turner has labelled the drawing ‘Fate D E[r]cole’. Owing to lack of space he has added the final figure from the right-hand side of the image in the top right-hand corner above. The drawing is annotated with the number ‘943’.
The sketch at the bottom represents a second frieze depicting the Labours of Hercules.5 Turner has similarly added the final figure from the right-hand side separately above the main sketch. The figure is inscribed ‘[?Faun]’. The drawing is furthermore annotated with the number ‘941’.
For other sketches depicting the Labours of Hercules in the Gabinetto delle Maschere, see folio 42 (D15184; Turner Bequest CLXXX 41).
Turner’s annotations 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.416; see Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.II, ‘4 ... Gabinetto delle Maschere’, no.440, pp.710–1, reproduced pl.79.
Giandomenico Spinola, Il Museo Pio-Clementino, vol.II, Vatican City 1999, no.GM 28, p.160, reproduced fig.26.
Powell 1984, p.416. See Amelung 1908, vol.II, no.442, pp.715–9, reproduced pl.80.
Spinola 1999, vol.II, no.GM 18, p.155, reproduced fig.25.
Powell 1984, p.416. Amelung 1908, vol.II, no.434, pp.699–702, reproduced pl.80; Spinola 1999, vol. II no.GM 19, reproduced fig.27.

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