Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazza del Nettuno, Bologna, with the Fountain of Neptune, Palazzo d’Accursio (Palazzo Communale) and the Palazzo del Podestà


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVI 26 d

Catalogue entry

The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Palazzo del Podestà, and other buildings’): ‘Piazza del Nettuno looking North’.1 The viewpoint is the Piazza Maggiore, with the medieval former town hall, the Palazzo d’Accursio, on the left with its classical doorway and balcony. The Madonna and Child statue shown high up in the foreground survives, but the façade below now features an arcade rather than the more complex features Turner records. A little further on to the right is the medieval and Renaissance Palazzo del Podestà; the side facing the Piazza del Nettuno also appears to have undergone substantial changes. Beyond the flat-topped tower in the distance is the Cathedral of San Pietro.
At the centre is the elaborate Mannerist Fountain of Neptune, its base with numerous bronze mythological figures supporting another of the Roman god Neptune, nude with his trident attribute and resting his right foot on a small dolphin. The figures are by Giambologna (1529–1608), and Cecilia Powell has noted that the fountain occasioned a pencil addition by Turner, ‘by J of Bol good figure Ex legs’, to his concise ink notes on Bologna among other places from the 1815 edition of J.C. Eustace’s A Classical Tour through Italy in the contemporary Italian Guidebook sketchbook2 (Tate D13938; Turner Bequest CLXXII 4, transcribed and catalogued here by Nicola Moorby; see also the Introduction to the present sketchbook). Powell has suggested ‘Ex’ indicates ‘excellent’,3 although ‘except’ might be an alternative, as Moorby has observed; nevertheless, the ‘good’ clearly ‘expresses definite approbation, a rare feature in Turner’s rare notes on works of art in Italy’.4
The fountain appears again on folios 28 recto and 29 recto (D14335, D14540; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 26a, 26f). It also featured in one of two small thumbnail sketches of the city from engravings by John Warwick Smith in the Italian Guidebook sketchbook (Tate D13963; Turner Bequest CLXXII 17). Turner later drew another Giambologna fountain in Florence, in the Rome and Florence sketchbook (Tate D16600; Turner Bequest CXCI 68a). For general remarks on Bologna and Turner’s numerous views on adjacent pages, see under folio 24 recto (D14532).
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.517.
See Powell 1984, p.82.
Ibid., p.83.
Finberg 1909, I, p.517.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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