Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including a Statue of Pello, Part of a Relief from a Child’s Sarcophagus, a Statuette Group of Mars and Venus, and a Statuette of Bes


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 161 x 101 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 31 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 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 depicting the statue of Pello, which stands on top of the funerary altar of Mithrasia Severa in the Museo Chiaramonti.1 A sketch of the altar can be found on the previous page, see folio 32 (D15164; Turner Bequest CLXXX 31). The sculpture also features within a sheet of antiquities drawn by James Hakewill (1778–1843) in 1817 (British School at Rome Library).2
Powell has identified the sketch in the top right-hand corner as a fragment from a child’s sarcophagus,3 also from the Museo Chiaramonti.4
Powell has identified the sketch on the left-hand side of the central row as a pediment and part of a decorative relief from the Museo Chiaramonti.5
Powell has identified the sketch in the centre of the page as a statuette group of Mars and Venus from the Museo Chiaramonti.6
Powell has identified the sketch on the right-hand side of the central row as a statuette of Bes from the Museo Chiaramonti.7 Until 1899, this statue stood on a shelf in between the objects represented in previous two sketches (c and d). It can now be found in the Museo Egiziano (Egyptian Museum).
Powell had identified the sketch as the bottom of the page as a Mithras relief from the Museo Chiaramonti.8 Mithraism was a mystery or cult religion practised across the Roman empire and relating to the Persian god, Mithras. The artist has annotated the drawing ‘644’ in the top right-hand corner, which presumably relates to an exhibit number displayed on the work. However, it does 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.415; see Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘Museo Chiaramonti I Seite 309–560’, no.686, p.780, reproduced pl.84, left.
See Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5M.19, reproduced p.313.
Powell 1984, p.415.
See Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.678, pp.771–2, reproduced pl.82, top left.
Powell 1984, p.415; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, nos.615–6, pp.726, reproduced pl.78, top centre.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.627, pp.731–2, reproduced pl.78, centre.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.621, p.728, reproduced pl.78, centre.
Ibid; see Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, no.568, pp.691–2, reproduced pl.74, top centre.
Powell 1987, pp.59 and 203 note 42.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.373, reproduced pl.378.

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