Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including a Statue of a Sleeping Maiden, a Frieze with a Procession of Children, and a Sarcophagus with Nereids


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 42

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 main sculpture court of the Museo Pio-Clementino, the Cortile Ottagono (also known as the Cortile Ottagonale, formerly the Cortile del Belvedere). The studies are numbered from top to bottom:
Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of the top sketch as a statue of a sleeping maiden.1 The snake in her hand suggests that this may be a representation of Cleopatra.2 Today the object can be found in the West Portico of the Cortile Ottagono. The statue is placed on top of the frieze depicted in the sketch below (see b.). Turner has annotated the drawing with the number ‘272’.
Powell has further identified the sketch at the bottom as representing a frieze with a procession of children or erotes (winged gods of love), many of whom are playing musical instruments.3 Today the object can be found in the West Portico of the Cortile Ottagono.4 The drawing is annotated with the number ‘273’.
Powell has identified the third sketch from the top as a fragment of a Nereid seated on a sea-horse.5 The fragment, which comprises the lower half of the body only, used to be placed upon the sarcophagus depicted in the sketch beneath (see d.). Today it can be found in the South Portico of the Cortile Ottagono.6
Powell has identified the fourth sketch from the top as a sarcophagus decorated with a relief depicting Nereids.7 Today it can be found in the West Portico of the Cortile Ottagono.8 The object is annotated with the number ‘146’.
The subject of the sketch at the bottom of the page is the head of a griffin from the table leg upon which the sarcophagus represented in the sketch above is placed (see d).9
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.417; see Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.II, ‘2. Belvedere’, no.73, pp.179–80, reproduced pl.19.
Giandomenico Spinola, Il Museo Pio-Clementino, vol.I, Vatican City 1996, no.PO 24, p.82
Powell 1984, p.417; see Amelung 1908, vol.II, no.73a, pp.180–1, reproduced pl.19.
Spinola 1996, vol.I, no.PO 25, pp.82–3.
Powell 1984, p.417; see Amelung 1908, vol. II, no.60A, pp.158–9, reproduced pl.17.
Spinola 1996, vol.I, no.PS 24, p.64.
Powell 1984, p.417; see Amelung 1908, vol.II, no.61, pp.159–60, reproduced pl.17.
Spinola 1996, vol.I, no.PO 11, p.78.
See Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Bildkatalog der Skulpturen des Vatikanischen Museum: Museo Pio Clementino Cortile Ottagono, Berlin and New York 1998, vol.II, pls.380 and 381; Amelung 1908, vol.II, nos.61a and b, pp.160–1, reproduced pl.17; and Spinola 1996, vol.I, PO 12 and 13, pp.78–9.

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