Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Roman Amphitheatre at Lillebonne


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 107 × 156 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCLIII 34

Catalogue entry

The page contains one, possibly two, rough sketches, drawn horizontally, of the Roman amphitheatre at Lillebonne. Finberg noted it simply as ‘Hills beside river’,1 but the location was later confirmed2 as Lillebonne. However, further identification is possible as the semi-circular sweep of shapes on the right corresponds to the curve of stone remains of the ruined amphitheatre.
The amphitheatre was built in stages between the first and third century CE, and later incorporated into fortifications, then abandoned in the Middle Ages, some of its masonry re-used, before being re-discovered in the eighteenth century. It could accommodate up to 10,000 spectators and the many objects excavated attest to the quality of its décor.3 The structures depicted on the hill at top right would correspond in shape and location to Lillebonne castle.
Turner’s later watercolour, Lillebonne, The Château from above the Roman Amphitheatre, c.1832 (Tate D24676; Turner Bequest CCLIX 111),4 depicts a slightly different viewpoint but gives some indication of their relative positions; it was engraved as Lillebonne, Château, for Turner’s Annual Tour Wanderings by the Seine, 1834 (Tate impressions: T04703, T05600, T06229, T06230). (For further information on the castle see under folio 29 recto; D23754.)

Caroline South
May 2017

Finberg 1909, II, p.769.
?Ian Warrell, ‘Turner on the Seine: Topographical Index’, c.1999, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain (printout in copy of Ian Warrell, Turner on the Seine, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999), p.3.
‘Amphithéâtre romain’,, accessed 3 March 2017,
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.413 no.959, reproduced.

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