Joseph Mallord William Turner

View from Monte Testaccio, Rome, with the Pyramid of Cestius and the Porta San Paolo

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16496
Turner Bequest CXCI 7

Catalogue entry

Turner made a series of drawings from the high vantage point of Monte Testaccio, an artificial hill in southern Rome constructed from a Roman pottery dump, see folios 6 verso–8 verso (D16495–D16499). This sketch records the view looking east. In the centre of the panorama are the Porta San Paolo (formerly known as the Porta Ostiense) and the Pyramid of Cestius, a funerary monument of white marble built between 18–12 BC for the magistrate Gaius Cestius Epulo and later incorporated into the Aurelian Walls.1 During the early nineteenth century large sections of the walls punctuated by square towers could still be seen to the south of the Aventine Hill running down to the banks of the River Tiber. The area in the foreground is the Protestant Cemetery (Cimiterio Accatolico), the famous burial ground which would later become the final resting place of British poets John Keats (1795–1821) and the heart of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), see folio 9 (D16500).2 The view continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 6 verso (D16495).
The composition of the sketch is virtually identical to a watercolour Turner painted for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, prior to his 1819 Italian tour. Based upon a drawing by Hakewill himself, Rome, from Monte Testaccio, watercolour, circa 1818 (private collection) was engraved by John Byrne and published in the same year as Turner’s first visit to the city.3

Nicola Moorby
February 2009

1
Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.208.
2
Ibid.
3
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.707; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol.I, no.15 (see Tate T06019). Hakewill’s drawing is not part of the collection in the British School at Rome and therefore it’s whereabouts is unknown. 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, p.425.

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