Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including a Votive Stele to Jupiter Heliopolitanus and the Round Ash Urn of Prastina Fronto


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 17

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 two objects 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 sketch on the left as a votive stele to Jupiter Heliopolitanus,1 found in the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti.2 A stele is a vertical stone slab or tablet bearing an inscription or sculptured design. They were often used as grave markers. The Latin inscription on the base of this example begins ‘I.O.M.H.| CONSERVATORI | IMPERII | DN GORDIANI’ and continues to the transcribed text on the right ‘PIL.EFL.INVICTIAVG | L.TREBONIVS. FAB. | SOSSIANVS | COLONIAHIIVPOLI | FRVMI. FG. IIIII.FL. | GORDIANA. E. | P.P’. The artist has also annotated the sketch ‘1077’ and ‘6’ which presumably relate to exhibit numbers displayed on the works. However, they do not appear to correspond to any known lists published within contemporary guide books or catalogues of the Vatican collections.
From the transcribed Latin inscription, Cecilia Powell has identified the sketch in the bottom right-hand corner, ascending the right-hand edge, as the round ash urn of Prastina Fronto,3 also from the Galleria Lapidaria (Lapidary Gallery) of the Museo Chiaramonti.4 The inscription reads ‘D M’ and ‘PRASTINAE.ERONTONIS | SCRIBAE. ADTE. DIESPATRVS’. 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.

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

Powell 1984, p.413.
See Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.152, pp.279–80, reproduced pl.30.
Powell 1984, p.413.
See Amelung 1903–8, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.151a, p.279, not reproduced.

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