Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Navicella and San Stefano Rotondo, Rome; and Sketches of Figures at Terracina


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 101 × 161 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXX 5 a

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell first identified, the subject of the main sketch on this page is the Navicella, a sixteenth-century copy of a Roman sculpture of a boat which was made for Pope Leo X and placed in front of the Church of Santa Maria in Domnica (also known informally as Santa Maria in Navicella) on the Caelian Hill. Turner’s drawing depicts the monument from the north looking towards the distinctive round church of San Stefano Rotondo beyond. Today the boat functions as a fountain and sits within an oval basin, parallel with the arcade of Santa Maria in Domnica, but until the twentieth century it stood perpendicular to the façade, mounted on a plinth. Another sketch taken from the opposite direction can be seen on folio 7 (D15115; Turner Bequest CLXXX 6). A view of the interior of San Stefano Rotondo can be found within the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15420; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 64a).
Although the greater part of the Vatican Fragments sketchbook relates to Rome, the artist also appears to have employed it several occasions during his journey south to Naples. Also on this page are a number of rough figure studies which depict women in local costume. Turner has annotated the drawings with colour notes and the place name, ‘Terracina’, a town on the west coast of Italy, approximately half way between Rome and Naples on the Via Appia. For sketches of this location see folio 77 verso (D15240; Turner Bequest CLXXX 76a). Further sketches of people can be found on the inner front cover and on folios 14 verso, 15 verso, 33 verso, 64, 69, 80, 80 verso, 82 and 82 verso (D40619, D15130, D15132, D15167, D15223, D15228, D15245, D15246, D15249 and D15250; Turner Bequest CLXXX 13a, 14a, 32a, 63, 68, 79, 79a, 81 and 81a).

Nicola Moorby
October 2009

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