Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including a Statue of a Satyr, Two Double Herms, and the Funerary Altar of Mithrasia Severa


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 31

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 several objects, most or all of which were probably found in the Museo Chiaramonti. The studies are numbered from top left to bottom right:
Cecilia Powell has identified the sketch in the top left-hand corner as a fragment of an ornamental pilaster from the Museo Chiaramonti.1
Powell has identified the sketch in the top right-hand corner as a fragment of relief, also from the Museo Chiaramonti.2
This sketch represents a statue of a satyr, formerly in the collections of the Braccio Nuovo.3 Today it can be found in the South Portico of the Cortile Ottagano in the Museo Pio-Clementino.4
Powell has identified the central sketch as a fragment of a double herm from the Museo Chiaramonti.5 A herm is a sculpture of a head and bust which tapers to a plain lower section. In this example the statue is headless.
Powell has identified the right-hand sketch on the centre row as a double herm from the Museo Chiaramonti.6
Powell has identified the sketch in the bottom left-hand corner as an altar decorated with reliefs from the Museo Chiaramonti.7 Turner has depicted the monument from an oblique three-quarter angle so that it is possible to see one of the sides, as well the front.
Powell has identified the sketch in the bottom right-hand corner as part of the funerary altar of Mithrasia Severa from the Museo Chiaramonti.8 Turner has transcribed the Latin text from the monument as ‘DIS | M[ANIBVS] | MITRASIAFP.F | SVERAE [should be SEVERAE]’. A sketch of the statue which stands on top of this base can be found on the following page, see folio 32 verso (D15165; Turner Bequest CLXXX 31a).
Jerrold Ziff described the Vatican Fragments sketchbook as ‘nearly a dictionary or pattern book of motifs’,9 which Turner consulted for the featured pieces of sculpture in the finished oil painting, What You Will! exhibited 1822 (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts).10 As Butlin and Joll, and Cecilia Powell have identified, one of the statue groups in this picture represents a veiled double herm which Turner appears to have invented but which may be based upon examples he had seen in the Vatican collections and elsewhere.11

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

Powell 1984, p.414; see Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘Museo Chiaramonti I Seite 309–560’, no.657, pp.758–9, reproduced pl.81, bottom right.
Ibid. See Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.644, pp.748–9, reproduced pl.81, top left.
See Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Bildkatalog der Skulpturen des Vatikanischen Museum: Museo Pio Clementino Cortile Ottagono, Berlin and New York 1998, vol.II, reproduced pl.32, no.I 1, 30, PS 18. See also Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.30, pp.44–5, reproduced pl.5, far left.
Giandomenico Spinola, Il Museo Pio-Clementino, vol.I, Vatican City 1996, no.PS 18, pp.60–2.
Powell 1984, p.414; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.731B, pp.810–1, reproduced pl.86, bottom right.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.731C, p.811, reproduced pl.86, bottom left.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.731D, pp.811–2, reproduced pl.86, bottom left.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.686a, pp.780–1, reproduced pl.84, bottom left.
Jerrold Ziff, ‘Copies of Claude’s Paintings in the Sketch Books of J.M.W. Turner’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol.LXV, January 1965, p.64 note 30.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.229, reproduced pl.232, and in colour in Powell 1987, colour pl.11, p.[64].
Butlin and Joll, p.139 under no.229, and Powell 1987, pp.58 and 203 note 39.

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