Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Interior of the Amphitheatre, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in Distance


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 19

Catalogue entry

The Amphitheatre in Pompeii lies along the eastern perimeter of the city walls between the Porta di Sarno and the Porta di Nocera. First discovered in 1748 it was completely excavated in 1813–16 and represents one of the oldest and best preserved Roman arenas in existence. During Turner’s visit in 1819 it was virtually the only landmark of importance which had been uncovered on the eastern side of the archeological site. The artist made a number of studies of the structure, see folios 17 verso–19 and 27 (D15769–D15772 and D15788). This sketch depicts a view of the interior looking north-west from part of the upper terraces. Dominating the background above the building is the silhouette of Vesuvius with its smoking crater. The vista was a popular subject for artists.1
For further sketches and a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

Compare an engraving, ‘View of the Amphitheatre’, published February 1819 in Sir William Gell and Joseph Gandy, Pompeiana: The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii, London 1824, vol.II, pl.75, between pp.262–3. Also see the plate after a drawing by John Goldicutt, ‘Interior of the Amphitheatre’ 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.[48].

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