Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Landscape Views, including one of Ponte Lucano and the Tomb of the Plautii; and sketches of Italian Women


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 76

Catalogue entry

This page contains two landscape studies near Tivoli. The subject of the lower vista is unidentified although it appears to represent a view of the river with a church in the middle distance. The subject of the upper sketch meanwhile is identifiable as the Tomb of the Plautius family (or Tomb of the Plautii), a cylindrical first-century funerary monument of Travertine stone, which stands on the Via Valeria, approximately two miles west of Tivoli. When travelling on the road from Rome to Tivoli it was one of the first sights to relieve the featureless plain of the Campagna, and, in conjunction with the adjacent Ponte Lucano, it represented a popular subject for artists. Turner himself made over twenty variant studies during his visit to Tivoli, see folio 27 verso (D14975). The twenty-mile journey would have been covered by carriage. However, the large number of sketches of the bridge and Plautian tomb indicates that Turner was afforded enough time to fully explore the site from a number of different angles, on foot, as well as from the road. This view depicts the approach from the north-east, and therefore possibly represents a drawing taken on the return journey from Tivoli to Rome.
In the bottom right-hand corner of the page Turner has also made a group of studies of female figures and a two-handled pot. Despite being very rough and swiftly drawn, these effectively capture the salient features of the traditional costume of Italian contadine, or peasant women, particularly the headdress, a piece of white cloth folded on top of the head, described by Samuel Rogers as ‘flat as a tile’.1 Turner often recorded ethnic and native costumes which he observed during his European travels, for example see the Scotch Figures sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest LIX) and the Swiss Figures sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest LXXVIII). The figure of a contadina appears in the foreground of the later watercolour, Lake Albano 1828 (private collection).2

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

J.R. Hale (ed.), The Italian Journal of Samuel Rogers, London 1956, p.273.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.731; reproduced in colour in Cecilia Powell, Italy in the Age of Turner: “The Garden of the World”, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 1998, fig.14, p.46.

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