Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Navicella and the Colosseum, Rome


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 6

Catalogue entry

As Cecilia Powell first identified, the subject of the 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. Today the boat functions as a fountain and sits within an oval basin, parallel with the church, but until the twentieth century it stood perpendicular to it, mounted on a plinth. Turner’s drawing depicts the monument from the south looking towards the Colosseum beyond. On the far left can be seen part of the arcaded façade of Santa Maria in Domnica, whilst to the right of this is part of the ancient Acqua Claudia (Claudian Aqueduct), known as the Arco di Dolabella. On the right-hand side of the composition is a freestanding ruined pillar, which also once formed part of the aqueduct. Another sketch of the Navicella taken from the opposite direction can be found on folio 6 verso (D15114; Turner Bequest CLXXX 5a).

Nicola Moorby
October 2009

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