Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Porta Ercolano, Pompeii, with the Schola Tomb of Mamia on the Via dei Sepolcri


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 8

Catalogue entry

Turner entered the ancient archeological site of Pompeii from the north-west, through the Porta Ercolano (Herculaneum Gate), a gate in the city walls which was approached from the Via dei Sepolcri (Street of the Tombs), and ultimately the main road from Herculaneum and Rome. This sketch depicts the remains of the western face of the gate which would originally have supported a monumental arch spanning the road. To the right is the top of the Via dei Sepolcri with two schola tombs, sepulchral monuments in the form of a semicircular bench, particularly common near the gates of a city.1 Turner has transcribed part of the Latin dedication from the exedra bench on the right. The full inscription to Mamia, the owner of the tomb, reads ‘MAMIAE. P. F. SACERDOTI. PVBLICAE. LOCVS. SEPVLTVR. DATVS. DECVRIONVM. DECRETO’ (To Mamia, daughter of Publius Mamius, City Priestess. Gravesite given by decree of the Town Council). The continuation of the sketch and the remainder of the inscription can be found on folio 9 (D15753). During the early nineteenth century the Via dei Sepolcri was one of the most impressive and fully excavated sections of the Pompeii site, and consequently it was a popular subject for topographical artists. This composition is virtually identical to that of the engraved plate after an 1817 drawing by James Pattinson Cockburn (1779–1847).2
In the top right-hand corner of the page are studies of decorative capitals from a tomb decorated with garland reliefs on the opposite site of the street, see folio 7 (D15750). Further sketches of the Via dei Sepolcri can be found on folios 5–7, 9 verso–10 (D15746–D15750, D15754–D15755). For a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

See definition in Lawrence Richardson, A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, Baltimore 1992, p.345.
See ‘The Circular Seats near the Gates Leading to Rome’, in Pompeii, Illustrated with Picturesque Views, Engraved by W.B. Cooke, from the Original Drawings of Liet. Col. Cockburn, of the Royal Artillery, vol.II, London 1827, pl.31, between pp.20–1.

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