Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Great Theatre and the Quadriporticus seen from the Small Theatre


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 CLXXXV 26

Catalogue entry

Turner’s viewpoint for this sketch of Pompeii was the upper circle of seating in the Small Theatre looking south-west towards the outer wall of the Great Theatre with the distant Lattari Mountains and Sorrentine peninsula beyond. The artist has noted within the drawing that he can see the sea. The area on the left-hand side of the composition is the Quadriporticus, a large open space surrounded by a portico of Doric columns which served as a kind of a foyer to the theatres. A number of gladiatorial weapons were discovered here suggesting that the building may have been used as a barracks, and during the nineteenth century the area was more commonly known as the ‘Soldier’s Quarters’.1 An alternative view can be seen on folio 25 verso (D15785). For further sketches and a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
October 2010

‘Brief Guide to Pompeii’, Soprintendenza archeologica di Pompeii 2002. Compare the plate after a drawing by Major James Cockburn, ‘Forum Nundinarium commonly called the Soldier’s Quarters’ in Pompeii, Illustrated with Picturesque Views, Engraved by W.B. Cooke, from the Original Drawings of Liet. Col. Cockburn, of the Royal Artillery, vol.I, London 1827, p.[40].

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