Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, Milan; ?a Copy of a Painting or Sculpture, Possibly of St Ambrose Baptising St Augustine of Hippo; Studies of a Cow or Bull and a Trolley


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 185 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXV 90

Catalogue entry

The main drawing, inverted relative to the sketchbook’s foliation shows the view north-east from the present Via Lanzone over the cloisters and the two campanile flanking the west end of Milan’s Romanesque Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, to the dome at the far end of the church, which has since lost its cupola. Conversely, the left-hand bell tower now stands taller, with open arches on an upper storey.
Separated by a vertical pencil line, on the left are smaller studies. The upper shows two figures, one standing with an arm or arms raised above another at a lower level. Turner’s notes indicate that they are ‘St Agustine’ and ‘St Ambrosio’ (that is Ambrose, or the Ambrogio of the church’s Italian dedication). Tradition has it that Ambrose, then Bishop of Milan, baptised Augustine of Hippo in 387,1 so this may be a swift record of an as yet undetermined painting, mosaic or polychrome sculpture of the event. At the bottom left, drawn with the page turned vertically, are studies of a cow or bull and what appears to be a trolley or small cart. It is unclear how these relate to the other drawings.
For other drawings of Milan in this sketchbook and elsewhere, see under folio 2 recto (D14328).

Matthew Imms
March 2017

See ‘His baptism – 01’, Augnet, accessed 15 February 2017,

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