Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Arco del Meloncello, Bologna

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 111 × 184 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D14554
Turner Bequest CLXXVI 33

Catalogue entry

The Turner scholar C.F. Bell amended Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry to read less speculatively: ‘Church of the Madonna di San Luca’.1 In fact, as Cecilia Powell recognised, the subject is the ‘magnificently baroque’ Arco del Meloncello,2 marking the opposite end of the arcade winding up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna south-west of Bologna, shown here receding to the left but now obscured by trees and buildings.
The east side is shown from the short elevated arcade on the north side of the Via Saragozza. Powell has closely analysed this sketch as an example of the artist’s shifting his viewpoint while making an ostensibly conventional drawing of the structure:
from the tempietto beside it, as is made clear by the foreground ledge and the angle at which we look up into the spandrels of the arch. However, in order to avoid confusion and distortion in his depiction of the outer portions of the arch – the pyramid-shaped finials and the round and triangular pediments – Turner has moved about forty feet, down a number of steps and out onto the road to sketch them.
In this way the depiction is ‘not a record of one given spot from another given spot, but a composite record which is not only more pleasing than the actuality but more useful and accurate from an architectural point of view’.3
For Powell’s general comments on Turner’s views of Bologna from a distance and around the Sanctuary (folios 32 verso–39 recto; D14545–D14558; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 28a–35), see under D14545;4 for the arcade and the Sanctuary itself, under folio 42 recto (D14564; CLXXVI 38);5 and for Bologna in general and numerous views on adjacent pages, under folio 24 recto (D14532).

Matthew Imms
March 2017

1
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.517.
2
Powell 1984, pp.84–5; see also pp.88, 406, 463 note 82.
3
Powell 1984, p.88.
4
See Powell 1984, pp.92, 466 note 110, and Powell 1987, pp.25, 202 note 46.
5
See also Powell 1984, pp.84–6.

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