Joseph Mallord William Turner

Temples of Paestum, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour, gouache and pen and watercolour on paper
Support: 240 × 305 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 148

Catalogue entry

This vignette was engraved by John Pye and appears as the head-piece for the forty-third section of Rogers’s Italy, entitled ‘Pæstum’.1 Pye was paid £35 for each of his engravings of Paestum and Tivoli (see Tate D27683; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 166) and the high price reflects his rank as one of the most important engravers of his day.2 Most of the other engravers of Italy vignettes were only paid 20 guineas.
The three fifth-century Doric Greek temples at Paestum were rediscovered in the mid eighteenth century and soon became the southernmost destination for many English travellers on the Grand Tour, including Turner himself during his 1819–20 journey through Italy.3 Turner here depicts two buildings; in the centre the so-called Temple of Neptune and in the distance on the right-hand side, a basilica (now both identified as part of a Sanctuary of Hera). A preparatory study for this subject shows that the artist considered presenting a distant view of all three temples (see Tate, D72609; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 92). However, in the end he decided to provide a close-up, three-quarter view of the central, and best preserved temple.
Turner had produced numerous sketches of the temples of Paestum during his 1819 tour of Italy (see Tate, D15945–6, D15967–73, D15980, D15995–7; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 19a–19b, 28a–31a, 35, 42a–43a). However, although Turner may have referred to these drawings to refresh his memory, he certainly did not copy from them directly. Cecilia Powell has pointed out that Turner inaccurately represents the central temple with only eleven lateral columns, even though he noted the correct number in his earlier on-site sketches (see Tate D13953, Turner Bequest CLXXII 20 and D15971, D15972; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 29–29b).4 She also observes that Turner has depicted the temple in a restored, complete state, rather than as the group of ruins which he actually saw and sketched.5 Nor was Turner overly concerned with correctly illustrating Rogers’s text down to every last detail. As Cecilia Powell has noted, Rogers’s describes a buffalo driver, who, in passing by the temples, ‘points to the work of magic and moves on,’ but Turner’s image shows a shepherd, who appears to be guiding his flock away from the impending storm.6
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.207; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.369. Two impressions are in Tate’s collection (T04664 and T04665).
Piggott 1993, p.28.
J.R. Hale (ed), The Italian Journal of Samuel Rogers, London 1956, p.87.
Powell 1983, p.8.
Ibid. p.4.
Hale (ed) 1956, p.113.
Piggott 1993, p.28 and Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) 1903–12, vol.III, pp.412–4.
Piggott 1993, p.39.
Wilton 1979, no.81.
Rawlinson 1913, vol.II, no.235. Two impressions are in Tate’s collection (T04549 and T06083).
Wilton 1979, no.497.
Powell 1983, p.10.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

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