Joseph Mallord William Turner

View Looking East towards the Colosseum and the Temple of Venus and Roma, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 74

Catalogue entry

This sketch represents part of a panoramic view looking east towards the Colosseum from a high vantage point just north of the Roman Forum, possibly the Torre dei Conti. The Colosseum itself dominates the left-hand side of the page and in addition to the general outline, the artist has included some detail recording the arches of the inner wall visible on the southern half of the structure. The surrounding area to the right incorporates the Caelian Hill and includes (from left to right): the Church of Santo Stefano Rotondo; and the Church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. The mountains in the distance are the Alban Hills and Turner has noted the relative position of Frascati, approximately eleven miles south-east of the city. In the foreground meanwhile is part of the ruined Temple of Venus and Roma and on the far right-hand side, the bell-tower of Santa Francesca Romana (formerly Santa Maria Nova). The Temple of Venus and Roma is in fact two temples which stand back to back at the eastern end of the Forum. Today, there is no access inside the ruins which means that only the eastern facing apse opposite the Colosseum is visible, but the artist’s high viewpoint for this sketch means that he could see part of the ceiling of the west-facing apse. For a similar composition see Luigi Rossini’s (1790–1857) series of views from the tower of Santa Francesca Romana, published in 1827. The view continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 74 verso (D16291; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 73a).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

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