Turner’s sketchbooks reveal that he thoroughly explored the various monuments of the Roman Forum from a variety of different angles. His viewpoint in this sketch is the eastern side of the portico of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, a Roman temple first dedicated to Faustina, the wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century AD but later converted into the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. During the seventeenth century, the antique remains were incorporated within a newly designed Baroque exterior. Turner’s sketch incorporates details of the ancient Corinthian capitals and the ornamental frieze of urns, griffins, candelabra and acanthus scrolls. Amongst the various figures milling about the Forum, he has also depicted a man casually leaning against one of the columns and smoking a pipe.
In the centre of the view is the ruined Temple of Castor and Pollux, an ancient building dating from the fifth century BC of which only three Corinthian columns and a surmounting section of entablature from the first century AD remain. To the left of that is the eighteenth-century Church of Santa Maria Liberatrice, an edifice which was pulled down at the beginning of the twentieth century during the excavation of the Forum. A new church with the same name was erected in the Testaccio district of the city. Turner’s sketch adopts the same viewpoint as an etching by Piranesi, Veduta laterale dell’avanzo del Tempio di Antonio e Faustina, from volume I of Le antichità Romane, first published in 1756.1
Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.194, reproduced p.201.