Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Forum of Trajan, 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 36 a

Catalogue entry

This is a view of the Forum of Trajan in Rome looking up towards the Column of Trajan, one of Rome’s most celebrated antiquities. Turner must have been standing amidst the ruins of the Basilica Ulpia, the main hall of the Forum. Many of the remaining columns can be seen in the foreground. In the background on either side are two churches with similar looking domes: on the left the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto and on the right the Church of Santissimo Nome di Maria (Holy Name of Mary).
This vista as Turner saw it was a relatively recent development, the Forum of Trajan having only recently been excavated by the French in 1811–14. Nevertheless it quickly became an established subject for artists. Cecilia Powell notes that a view engraved by Luigi Rossini was published in Le Antichità Romane (1819–23).1 Turner, meanwhile, would certainly have been familiar with Hakewill’s drawing, ‘Rome Piazza Traiana’ 1817 (British School at Rome, Library), which adopts a similar but slightly wider viewpoint.2
Another sketch of Trajan’s column and the forum can be found in the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16241; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 48).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Powell 1984, p.473 note 17 and Powell 1987, p.202 note 12.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.3.24, p.205 reproduced.

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