Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Piazza di San Domenico (Piazza del Plebiscito), Ancona, with the Church of San Domenico


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 x 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVI 68

Catalogue entry

As Finberg recognised, the subject is Ancona’s long, narrow Piazza del Plebiscito.1 Turner’s viewpoint is the western corner, looking east-south-east to the church of San Domenico above the elaborate steps which rise in several stages up the slope of the far end. The upper level of the church’s west front remains as plain as Turner shows it, although he made a separate note of one of the Corinthian capitals of the completed level towards the top right. Below the church is a large stone statue of the seated Pope Clement XII.
At an oblique angle at the gutter here is a Baroque doorway and balcony on the west side of the square, effectively behind the main prospect, and the façade is even continued a little way onto folio 71 verso opposite (D14618; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 67a). Turner thus incorporated not only a conventional three sides of the square2 but all four in one sweep, within an angle of just over 90° in what Cecilia Powell has characterised as ‘a highly composed view ... from a carefully selected vantage point’.3
The left-hand two thirds show the north side, with the elaborate gateway at the corner and the rusticated doorway below the clock tower of the Prefettura about a quarter of the way along. Powell has noted ‘the care with which Turner drew the very fine fifteenth-century gateway’: ‘Although Turner had not sketched the Tempio Malatestiano at Rimini [see under folio 57 verso; D14592; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 53a], one suspects that this was merely because his perambulations had not taken him past it’, and the present drawing ‘shows clearly that Early Renaissance architecture could hold as much fascination for Turner as that of any other period and that a well-proportioned, finely executed piece of architecture was always likely to attract his eye.’4
For Powell and James Hamilton’s general comments on Turner’s varied and extensive coverage of Ancona, which takes up most of the last quarter or so of this sketchbook, see under folio 69 verso (D14514; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 65a).5
Finberg 1909, I, p.519.
See Powell 1984, p.93.
Powell 1987, p.26.
See Powell 1984, pp.92–3, 466 note 109, Powell 1987, pp.25, 202 note 45, and Hamilton 1997, pp.198, 325 note 13.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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