Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Roman Forum with the Temple of Venus and Roma, seen from the Arcades of the Colosseum


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 130 × 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 16

Catalogue entry

During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made numerous sketches in and around the Colosseum.1 This sketch depicts the view from just inside the interior of the famous amphitheatre looking towards the eastern end of the Forum. Turner’s viewpoint is on the western side of the arena, looking out from the ground floor corridor between the inner wall and the partially intact outer wall. The main focus of the composition seen through the arches is the ruined Temple of Venus and Roma. This vast structure dating from the second century AD is comprised of two shrines, one for each of the respective goddesses, which stand back to back at the eastern end of the Forum. It is the eastern facing apse of Venus with its coffered half-dome ceiling which faces the Colosseum. To the left of the Temple can be seen the Arch of Titus, and to the right is the bell-tower of Santa Francesca Romana and the vast ruins of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius. Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background.
Related sketches of views seen from within the arcades of the Colosseum can be found on folios 15 verso and 19 (D16416 and D16421; Turner Bequest CXC 15a and 19), and in the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16389; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 58).

Nicola Moorby
May 2009

Nicola Moorby, ‘An Italian Treasury: Turner’s Sketchbooks’, in James Hamilton, Turner and Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, p.115.

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