Joseph Mallord William Turner

Trieste from the Slopes below the Castello di San Giusto


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 127 × 198 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXCIX 57

Catalogue entry

With the page turned horizontally, the main view is a rapid sketch of Trieste, likely looking north above the harbour from the slopes below the Castello di San Giusto. At the top left is a similar view on a smaller scale, framed by pencil lines. Turner has added an initial ‘T’ below it as a reminder of the subject. The city was then an Austrian possession, and now stands within a narrow coastal strip at the furthest eastern point of northern Italy, with Slovenia inland to its east and Croatia a few miles to the south.
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘Mountains’): ‘From here onwards all are views of Trieste and the coast there abouts’.1 Indeed, folios 57 recto–66 verso and the inside of the back cover (D30109–D30129) present a sequence of views in and around the Adriatic port city and the Gulf of Trieste at the northern end of the Adriatic, likely made working inwards in reverse order of the subsequent foliation; see also folios 1 verso and 2 recto (D30003–D30004).
Visiting for the first and only time, the artist approached by sea from Venice, some seventy miles to the west. Cecilia Powell has described ‘sketch after sketch ... of the gulf of Trieste seen in the distance from Turner’s boat. Gradually buildings and the lighthouse are discernible, then boats and the harbour, then the great mass of the town itself with its castle and fort, warehouses and quays, mole and the thirteenth-century castle of San Giusto.’2 From here Turner set off north-east by road though the Austrian territories to the north-east.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

Undated MS note by Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Prints and Drawings Room, Tate Britain, II, p.969.
Powell 1995, p.66; see also p.81 note 18.

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