Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Forum, Rome, Looking South-East Towards the Arch of Titus


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 65 a

Catalogue entry

Turner thoroughly explored the Roman Forum (Campo Vaccino) and made numerous sketches from various angles. This sketch of the north-west end of the Forum looking south-east is dominated by the Temple of Vespasian in the foreground and the Column of Phocas in the centre middle ground. The other main landmarks visible in the background are (from left to right): the partially excavated Arch of Septimius Severus; the domed Church of Santi Luca e Martina; the portico of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the Baroque façade of the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda; the Colosseum; and the campanile and Baroque façade of Santa Francesca Romana. Just visible on the far right-hand side at the vanishing point of the sketch is the Arch of Titus. The panorama continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 67 (D15423; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 66) with the Temple of Saturn and the view looking towards the Palatine Hill.
This sketch represents one of the nearest compositional parallels to Turner’s later oil painting, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino exhibited 1839 (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland).1 The view in the painting is not an entirely accurate representation of the Forum but repeats the high view point from the north end with the frieze of buildings along the eastern side. It also depicts the rocky, rubble strewn ground which Turner draws attention to within the sketch by his inscribed notes.
For a general discussion of the Forum and other sketches 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.379.

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