Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Colosseum from the Palatine Hill, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 230 × 367 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 19

Catalogue entry

The Palatine Hill was one of the most popular vantage points in Rome and Turner made a large number of studies recording prospects of the city seen in all directions. This sketch depicts a view of the Colosseum seen from the eastern side of the hill. In the foreground are parts of the ruins of the Palatine including a surviving section of the Claudian Aqueduct, whilst in the background to the right are the Baths of Trajan on the Esquiline Hill and part of the Church of Santi Quattro Coronati. From this location, the scale and shape of the Colosseum could be seen to good advantage, permitting a glimpse inside the great arena with the larger surviving exterior wall framing the back and many artists adopted the viewpoint.1 Turner’s study is similar to the view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith, The Coliseum, &c. from Mount Palatine from Select Views in Italy, copied by Turner in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13966; Turner Bequest CLXXII 19, second from top left). Samuel Palmer also adopted a similar design in his finished watercolour, The Colosseum and Alban Mount 1837–9 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and related sketch (see Tate, T01008).
Although the composition has been executed almost entirely in pencil, Turner has added colour and tonal definition to the Colosseum with watercolour. Similar related views can be found on other sheets within this sketchbook (see D16335, D16369, D16371; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 9, 42, 43a). For further sketches of the Colosseum see another page from this sketchbook (Tate D16349; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 23).
See for example Carlo Labruzzi (1748–1817), Il Colosseo visto dal Palatino (Palazzo di Caterina, Tsarskoje Selo, Russia), reproduced in colour in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Parigi and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, no.2, p.7.
?Blank (pasted to mount).

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

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