Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Basilica of Constantine in the Forum, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 51 a

Catalogue entry

The remains of the fourth-century Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius stand at the eastern end of the Forum. This vast building, sometimes erroneously called the Temple of Peace, was once used for business and judiciary affairs. The edifice was the largest in the Forum and Turner’s sketch captures the scale of the three surviving barrel vaults with their coffered ceilings. The circular shaped object with the architectural detailing on the ground in front of the central arch is a large section of collapsed ceiling masonry which still sits in the same position today. On the far right-hand side of the page near the spine of the book can be seen the campanile of the adjacent church, Santa Francesca Romana.
The Basilica appears in a number of Turner’s sketchbook drawings, for example, see the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16261 and D16265; CLXXXVIII 58 and 60). It also dominates the right-hand side of Turner’s large oil painting, Forum Romanum, for Mr Soane’s Museum exhibited 1826 (Tate N00504).1 For a general discussion of the Forum see folio 32 (D15355).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.233.

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