Joseph Mallord William Turner

Vignette Study of Leaning Tower, ?Bologna, ?for Rogers’s ‘Italy’

c.1826–7

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 168 × 239 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D27619
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 102

Catalogue entry

The vagueness of this unfinished watercolour sketch led Finberg to suggest that it could be a study for Tornaro, a subject that Turner illustrated for Rogers’s Poems (see Tate D27689; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 172). However, Jan Piggott has linked the palette and pink leaning architectural form with another vignette study, Leaning Towers of Bologna (Torre Asinelli and Torre Garisenda (see Tate D27531; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 14).1 This is a subject Turner appears to have experimented with for Rogers’s Italy, probably as a potential illustration to the section ‘Bologna,’ in which Rogers’s describes an encounter with the poet, Lord Byron.
Turner visited Bologna in 1819 and produced a number of sketches of the city, including quite a few view of the Torre Garisenda (see Tate D14546, D14648, D14641; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 29, 30, 79 and Tate D14870; Turner Bequest CLXXVIII 21a). However, none of these sketches bear any close resemblance to this study and it seems likely that he developed this composition from memory.

The watercolour was part of a parcel of vignette studies labelled by John Ruskin as ‘Studies for Italy. Coarse, but noble’.2 Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.3
1
Piggott 1993, p.96.
2
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.896.
3
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.xi.
Verso:
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 83 P’ and ‘R’ and ‘CCLXXX 102’ bottom right

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Read full Catalogue entry

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