During his 1819 stay in Rome, one of Turner’s most extensive sketching campaigns was the large number of pencil studies made from the sculpture collections of the Vatican Museums (for a general discussion, see the introduction to the sketchbook). As Cecilia Powell first identified, the subject of this sketch is a general view of the Vestibolo Quadrato (Square Hall), the first room of the Museo Pio-Clementino, found at the top of the stairs leading from the Museo Chiaramonti. Visible amongst the works of art displayed within this room are two famous pieces: on the far left, the Sarcophagus of Scipio Barbatus (see folio 71 verso, D15231; Turner Bequest CLXXX 70a);1 and to the left of the doorway, the Belvedere Torso.2 The latter, a fragment of a nude male sculpture which had only recently been returned to the Vatican along with other spoliated works from Paris, can today be seen in the Sala delle Muse. There is a slight continuation of the sketch on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 36 verso (D15173; CLXXX 35a).
Turner’s composition, representing the layout of an entire room rather than individual objects presented in isolation, is similar in manner to the plates depicting views of the museums of Rome, Naples and Florence in James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (1818). In the preface to the prints, Hakewill claimed that the views, based upon his own 1817 drawings, had never previously appeared in any similar publication.3 Amongst the rooms depicted by Hakewill were several from the Vatican, including the Sala a Croce Greca (British School at Rome Library),4 also drawn by Turner on folios 48 and 48 verso (D15196 and D15197; Turner Bequest CLXXX 47 and 47a).
Giandomenico Spinola, Il Museo Pio-Clementino, vol.I, Vatican City 1996, no.VQ 5, pp.10–12, reproduced fig.1.
Spinola, vol.II, no.SM 26, pp.208–11, reproduced fig.35.
Quoted in 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.293.
Ibid., no.5M.8, reproduced p.301.