Joseph Mallord William Turner

Three Sketches of Classical Remains, ? Including the So-Called Villa of Cicero at Formia


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 197 × 122 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 28

Catalogue entry

This page contains three distinct sketches, the subjects of which have not been conclusively identified but which perhaps depict classical remains in Formia, a town on the Tyrrhenian coast formerly comprised of the villages of Castellone and Mola di Gaeta. In his travel guide, A Classical Tour Through Italy and Sicily, published 1819, Turner’s patron Sir Richard Colt Hoare documented that this part of the coastline revealed ‘an uninterrupted succession of antiquities’, including the ruins of several Roman villas.1 The tower in the central study, for example, may represent the so-called Villa of Cicero (present-day Villa Rubina), which can be found overlooking the Bay of Gaeta near the ruined port of Caposele.
The uppermost view appears to depict a bridge or road amidst a landscape with a large commemorative monument from which Turner has partially recorded a Latin inscription. Further transcriptions from classical statues or tombs can be seen in the middle sketch.

Nicola Moorby
April 2010

Sir Richard Colt Hoare, A Classical Tour in Italy and Sicily, London 1819, vol.I, p.118.

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