Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Temple of Clitumnus, Looking up towards Pissignano


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 37 a

Catalogue entry

One of the most celebrated ancient monuments to be found outside of Rome was the Temple of Clitumnus (Tempietto sul Clitunno), a small structure dating from between the fourth to the eighth centuries, located on the road between Foligno and Spoleto in Umbria. Originally a pagan place of worship devoted to the divinity of the Clitumnus River, the source of which lies nearby, the building was later adopted as a Christian chapel, the Church of San Salvatore. This sketch depicts a complete view of the temple looking up from the banks of the stream to the north-west. On the slopes of the hill to the left is the medieval fortress of Pissignano, see folios 36 (D14722) and 36 verso (D14723), whilst on the right just beneath the temple is part of an old grain and oil mill built beside the stream. This building still exists today as a hotel.1 As John Chetwode Eustace described in A Classical Tour Through Italy, the temple consists of:
the cella and a Corinthian portico, supported by four pillars and two pilasters; the pilasters are fluted; two of the pillars are indented with two spiral lines winding round, and two ornamented with a light sculpture representing the scales of fish. The inscription on the frieze is singular, “Deus angelorum, qui fecit resurrectionem.” Underneath is a vault or crypta: the entrance is on the side as the portico hangs over the river; the walls are solid, the proportions beautiful, and the whole worthy of the Romans, to whom it is ascribed.2
In preparation for his first trip to Italy Turner made detailed notes from this passage in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13939; Turner Bequest CLXXII 4a).
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the temple was a well-known landmark for travellers on the Via Flaminia, adjacent as it was to the first post stage after Foligno, Le Vene.3 It was also a popular subject for artists and writers and Turner would have been familiar with its appearance from various other contemporary sources. As a young man he had made a study of Richard Wilson’s painting Temple of Clitumnus 1754, 4 which at the time was owned by the Prince of Wales, although it is not clear whether Turner worked from the original or from a reproductive print (see Wilson sketchbook, Tate D01195–D01196; Turner Bequest XXXVII 78–9).5 A tiny pen-and-ink view of the temple appears in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook, copied from John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s Select Views in Italy (see Tate D13964; Turner Bequest CLXXII 18, second from top left). Turner was also familiar with Stourhead, the estate of his friend and patron, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the gardens of which contained a structure inspired by the Corinthian temple, the Temple of Flora, built in 1744–6 by the architect Henry Flitcroft.6 Furthermore, he may also have seen other images of it such as a lecture diagram of the elevation and plan of the portico by his friend, Sir John Soane (John Soane Museum, London), or a topographical drawing by James Hakewill, his collaborator on Picturesque Views in Italy, published 1819.7

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

Il Vecchio Molino, see http://www.vecchio–, accessed November 2008.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, vol.1, p.321.
Ibid., vol.1, p.319.
Sold at Important British Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, Sotheby’s, London, 14 June 2001, lot.8 as An Italian river scene with the Temple of Clitumnus and ruins, two figures and cows in foreground.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: The ‘Wilson’ Sketchbook, London 1988, p.17.
Temple of Jupiter Clitumnus, near La Vene 1817, British School at Rome Library, see Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.2.49, p.166 reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.342.
Powell 1984, p.355 and Powell 1987, p.170.

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