Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Three Temples at Paestum


Not on display

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 x 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 19 b

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 and John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831).4 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 19 verso, 31–33 verso, 44 verso–45 verso (D15945, D15968–D15973, D15995–D15997; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 19a, 29–31a, 42a–43a).
This sketch represents a conventional view of the three temples seen from the south-west. In the distance on the left is the Temple of Athena (formerly known as the Temple of Ceres), whilst in the central middle distance are the two Temples dedicated to Hera. These were formerly (incorrectly) known as the Temple of Neptune (left) and the Basilica (right) but were reattributed in the twentieth century. The composition is virtually identical to that of a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Temples at Paestum 1816 (Library of the British School at Rome),5 engraved for the Picturesque Tour of Italy (published 1820), a project for which Turner had also contributed illustrations in 1819. It is extremely likely therefore that Turner would have seen Hakewill’s study prior to his own Italian tour.

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 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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