During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made numerous sketches in and around the Colosseum.1 This view depicts the western end of the famous amphitheatre from a point on the northern side of the Temple of Venus and Roma. Part of the ruined inner wall of the shrine dedicated to the goddess Venus is visible on the far right-hand side. Between the two ancient Roman structures is the Arch of Constantine and beyond that, the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo on the Caelian Hill. Turner also made a coloured study of the Colosseum from this same angle (see Tate D16364; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 37).
Like many pages within this sketchbook the composition has been executed in pencil over a grey washed ground which acts as a mid-tone for dramatic constrasts in light and shadow. Turner has created pale highlights within the sky and the exterior of the Colosseum by lifting or rubbing through to the white paper beneath. Furthermore he has used touches of white gouache on the Arch of Constantine, on the edge of the northern outer wall of the Colosseum, and on a ruined block of masonry in the foreground. Darker areas have been described with heavy cross-hatched or shaded lines.
Further sketches juxtaposing the Arch of Constantine in relation to the Colosseum can be found in this sketchbook (see Tate D16355, D16389; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 29, 58), as well as within the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15397; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 53), the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16197; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 2) and the Smaller Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16398, D16416, D16455; Turner Bequest CXC 4, 15a, 41).
See Nicola Moorby, ‘An Italian Treasury: Turner’s Sketchbooks’, in James Hamilton, Turner and Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, p.115.
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