Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Basilica of Constantine from the Farnese Gardens on the Palatine Hill, Rome


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Support: 234 × 369 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 30

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Turner's views of Rome, especially those from his first visit in 1819, seem impregnated with the Byronic spirit. Both painter and poet shared the Romantic preoccupation with departed grandeur. Rome, 'my country! city of the soul! ... Lone mother of dead empires!' was the supreme example of the ironies of history. Individual sufferings paled beside the sublime tragedy proclaimed by the city's ruins but natural beauty, represented for both Turner and Byron by moonlight on the Colosseum, transfigured everything, 'leaving that beautiful which still was so,/ And making that which was not, till the place/ Became religion, and the heart ran o'er/ With silent worship of the great of old'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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