Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 229 × 368 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 50

Catalogue entry

During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made numerous sketches in and around the Colosseum (see D16349; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 23).1 This study depicts the view from a point at the top of the Via Sacra, near the Arch of Constantine. On the right is the Colosseum and on the left, the ruined Temple of Venus and Roma. This vast structure dating from the second century AD is comprised of two shrines, one for each of the respective goddesses, which stand back to back at the eastern end of the Forum. It is the eastern facing apse of Venus with its coffered half-dome ceiling which faces the Colosseum. In the background between the two Roman ruins is the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli and the Torre dei Margani. In order to achieve the most effective pictorial composition Turner has manipulated the angle at which he has drawn the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Roma. It is not actually possible to see the surviving section of the northern outer wall of the former at the same time as the inner apse of the latter. Turner has pulled the wall of the Colosseum round as though he were viewing it straight on from the Temple, rather than to the side of it (compare Tate D16364; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 37).
Like many pages within this sketchbook, the drawing has been executed over a washed grey background. Related compositions which explore the juxtaposition of these two structures can be found in the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16421 and D16456; CXC 19 and 42).
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.
Blank except for traces of grey watercolour wash; stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 50’ bottom left.

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

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