Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Temple of Hera (Known as the Basilica) at Paestum, Looking towards the Second Temple of Hera (Formerly Known as the Temple of Neptune)


Not on display

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 CLXXXVI 19 a

Catalogue entry

The southernmost destination on Turner’s tour of Italy in 1819–20 was Paestum, an ancient city on the Tyrrhenian coast, approximately twenty miles south-east of Salerno. Here, like many British tourists, the artist visited the three famous fifth-century BC Greek Doric temples which stand on a plain between the mountains and the sea. Rediscovered in the mid-eighteenth century, the remains represented some of the most well preserved and complete temples in Europe, and according to Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy (first published 1813), surpassed those in every other Italian city except Rome.1 Turner was already familiar with the appearance of the ruins through the work of other artists including Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778),2 John Robert Cozens (1752–1797),3 John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831),4 and James Hakewill (1778–1843).5 Furthermore he had used an illustrated diagram featuring the so-called Temple of Neptune in his perspective lectures at the Royal Academy (see Tate D17072; Turner Bequest CXCV 102). Having made the journey from Naples to Paestum for himself he eagerly seized the opportunity to make a number of on-the-spot sketches, exploring the site from a variety of angles, see folios 20, 31–33 verso, 44 verso–45 verso (D15946, D15968–D15973, D15995–D15997; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 19b, 29–31a, 42a–43a).
As Cecilia Powell first specifically identified, this sketch depicts a view of the Temple of Hera, formerly but mistakenly known as the Basilica.6 Within the study Turner has indicated that there are ‘18’ Doric columns along the lateral side of the structure, a fact which he had already recorded in his notes from Eustace in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13958; Turner Bequest CLXXII 14a). The artist’s viewpoint appears to be just inside the south-west corner of the Temple of Hera, with the three surviving columns of the naos or cella (inner chamber) in the centre of the right-hand side, and the pronaos, or inner portico beyond. The left-hand side of the composition also includes the front and side of the adjacent Second Temple of Hera (formerly known as the Temple of Neptune or Poseidon), a sweeping view of about 120 degrees. Powell has suggested that this approach reflects Turner’s knowledge of the dramatic interior views of the temples by Piranesi which he would have seen in the collection of his friend, Sir John Soane.7

Nicola Moorby
July 2010

John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.III, pp.76–108.
See Powell 1987, p.83.
For example, The Two Temples at Paestum,1782 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), reproduced in Giuliano Briganti, Nicola Spinosa and Lindsay Stainton, In the Shadow of Vesuvius: Views of Naples from Baroque to Romanticism 1631–1830, exhibition catalogue, Accademia Italiana delle Arti e dell arti Applicate, London 1990, p.70.
See the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13971; Turner Bequest CLXXII 21a).
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.5.58, reproduced p.290.
Powell 1984, p.425.
Powell 1987, pp.[85] and 204 note 68. See also the plates for Différentes Vues de Pesto, 1778, reproduced in Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, nos.851–71, pp.666–79.
Powell 1983, p.8.
See also W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol.II, no.799 (Tate, T04914).
Powell 1984, p.535–6 note 26; Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.369.

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