Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Southern End of the Forum, Pompeii; and Part of the Latin Dedication from the Building of Eumachia


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 13

Catalogue entry

The centre of civil, commercial and religious life in Pompeii was the Forum. This important area of the city had been excavated in 1812–13 and despite still being imperfectly cleared in 1819, it was nevertheless one of the most recent and complete discoveries available during Turner’s visit in 1819.1 The artist made a number of studies of different parts of the site, see folio 12 verso (D15760). The Latin inscription in the bottom right-hand corner of this page represents two fragments of text which can be found carved within the ruined portico entablature of the building of the priestess, Eumachia, on the east side of the Forum. The two phrases represent part of a larger dedication which once read ‘EUMACHIA L. F., SACERD(OS) PUBL(ICA), NOMINE SUO ET M. NUMISTRI FRONTONIS FILI CHALCIDICUM, CRYPTAM, PORTICUS CONCORDIAE AUGUSTAE PIETATI SUA PEQUNIA FECIT EADEMQUE DEDICAVIT’ [Eumachia, daughter of Lucius, public priestess, in her own name and that of her son, Marcus Numistrius Fronto, built at her own expense the chalcidicum, crypt and portico in honour of Augustan Concord and Piety and also dedicated them].2 Turner has transcribed the sections ‘ORDIAE AVGVSTA’ and ‘DEMQVEDEDICAV’ although he has made some tiny errors copying the lettering.
Eumachia’s building also represents Turner’s viewpoint for the main drawing on the sheet, a sketch of the southern end of the Forum looking towards the Basilica on the right.3 The ruins in the background represent three large adjoining public administration buildings. In the centre of the composition are some of the large statue bases which dominate this end of the Forum including the arch of the monument to Augustus. The artist has made a number of small studies of individual ornamental details from some of the bases.
For further sketches and a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.
Roberto Cassanelli, Pier Luigi Ciapparelli, Enrico Colle et al., Houses and Monuments of Pompeii: The Works of Fausto and Felice Niccolini, Los Angeles 1997, p.218.
Alison E. Cooley and M.G.L. Cooley, Pompeii: A Sourcebook, London 2004, p.100, E42.
Compare an engraving by George Cooke, ‘View of the Forum and Basilica’ published August 1819, reproduced in Sir William Gell and Joseph Gandy, Pompeiana: The Topography, Edifices, and Ornaments of Pompeii, London 1824, vol.II, pl.45, reproduced between pp.222–3.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

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