Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including Architectural Features and an Ash Urn


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 20

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, some or all of which were probably found in the Museo Chiaramonti. The studies are numbered from top left to bottom right:
The sketch at the top depicts part of an unidentified architectural fragment decorated with figures and an Ionic capital. Turner has annotated the drawing ‘978’ which presumably relates to an exhibit number displayed on the individual work. However, it does not appear to correspond to any known lists published within contemporary guide books or catalogues of the Vatican collections.
The subject of this sketch is currently unidentified although it appears to depict an ash urn.
A sketch of a Corinthian capital, the source of which is currently unidentified.
The sketch in the bottom left-hand corner appears to depict an acroterion, an architectural ornament designed to be placed at the apex of a pediment. The source is currently unidentified, however, the object also features within a sheet of antiquities drawn by James Hakewill (1778–1843) in 1817 (British School at Rome Library).1
An unidentified architectural fragment, possibly a capital, decorated with a stylised palmette motif.
The sketch in the bottom right-hand corner of the page depicts an ash urn in the Museo Chiaramonti.2 Turner has transcribed the accompanying Greek inscription as ‘T ¿ F | ¿G¿T¿¿¿. ¿G¿T¿¿ | ¿¿ ¿T¿S. ¿¿¿ ¿¿¿¿ | ¿¿¿¿¿¿’ [Be good in your character and in your art].3

Nicola Moorby
November 2009

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.
See Walther Amelung, Die Sculpturen des Vaticanischen Museums, Berlin 1903–8, vol.I, ‘3. Museo Chiaramonti I Seite 309–560’, no.306, p.516, reproduced pl.54, third from right on shelf. Not, as Cecilia Powell has suggested, Amelung, vol.I, ‘2. Galleria Lapidaria Seite 161–308’, no.94, not illustrated.
Transcribed by Sofia Karamani, Ioannis Iordanidis and Steve Hare.

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