J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Amalfi, for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Amalfi, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 167
Gouache, pencil and watercolour, approximately 94 x 136 mm on white wove paper, 247 x 308 mm
Inscribed by ?Robert Wallis in pencil ‘1’ through ‘16’ (right to left) along bottom edge against sixteen pricked points. Also ruled pencil lines on all four sides of the vignette
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 167’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vignette was engraved by Robert Wallis and appears as the end-piece for the forty-fourth section of Rogers’s Italy, also entitled ‘Amalfi’.1 The head-piece for this section, engraved after a design by Stothard, shows a young mother with five round-faced children playing by the seashore. In this section, Rogers describes Amalfi’s rise and fall as a great medieval maritime power:
    The time has been,
When on the quays along the Syrian coast,
’Twas asked and eagerly, at break of dawn,
What ships are from Amalfi?’ when her coins,
Silver and gold, circled from clime to clime;
From Alexandria southward to Sennaar,
And eastward, thro’ Damascus and Cabul
And Samarcand, to thy great wall, CATHAY.
Then were the nations by her wisdom swayed;
And every crime on every sea was judged
According to her judgements.
(Italy, pp.213–4)
The two boats that appear in Turner’s illustration allude to Amalfi’s once thriving ports; however, the vignette is actually set in the Amalfi of modern times.2 This fact is clearly signalled by the closing lines of Rogers’s poem, which appear just above Turner’s vignette:
   There now to him who sails
Under the shore, a few white villages,
Scattered above, below, some in the clouds,
Some on the margin of the dark blue sea,
And glittering thro’ their lemon-groves, anounce
The region of Amalfi. Then, half-fallen,
A lonely watch-tower on the precipice,
Their ancient land-mark, comes. Long may it last;
And to the seaman in a distant age,
Tho’ now he little thinks how large his debt,
Serve for their monument!
(Italy, pp.215–6)
The location which Turner has actually depicted within his watercolour is Atrani, a small village immediately to the east of Amalfi.3 The view may be based upon sketches from Turner’s 1819 visit in the Pompeii, Amalfi, Sorrento, Herculaneum sketchbook, several of which show the town much as it appears in the finished vignette (see Tate D15834, D15385, D15387, D15840–3; Turner Bequest CLXXXV 52 verso, 53, 54, 55 verso–57). The ‘half-fallen ... lonely watch-tower on the precipice’ to which Rogers refers, and which appears here in the right-hand distance standing atop the steep surrounding coastline, is actually the church of Santa Maria Maddalena. The artist also produced a preparatory study that informed the background detail in the finished vignette (see Tate D27618; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 101).
Adele Holcomb has described Amalfi as the ‘most dynamic of the Italy vignettes’, although the design loses some of this energy in its engraved form.4 This is due in part to the fact that Wallis, most likely in accordance with Turner’s instructions, filled in the sky with high piled clouds. This addition rounds out the composition of the vignette and mutes the momentum of the ship, which derived largely from the vignette’s horizontal composition. In cases such as Amalfi, where the sky is left empty prior to engraving, Turner probably provided instructions regarding how the unfinished areas should be completed. Adele Holcomb has suggested that ‘the addition of atmosphere in the plates was suggested by Rogers’, but this seems unlikely.5 Although Rogers appears to have reviewed the designs before their publication, the process of translating the vignettes from painting to engraving was directed by Turner himself.6 See also entries on Banditti (Tate D27681; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 164) and St Anne’s Hill (II) (Tate D27688; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 171).
Cecilia Powell has noted that the faint pencil lines drawn around this vignette were made by the engravers during the process of squaring-up the designs for reduction.7
The inscribed and punctured numbers along the edges would also have been part of this exercise.
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.216; W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.370. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04666 and T04667).
Powell 1983, p.4.
Identified by Nicola Moorby.
Holcomb 1966, p.66.
Ibid., p.37.
For information on Turner’s supervision of his engravers, see Anne Lyles and Diane Perkins, Colour into Line: Turner and the Art of Engraving, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1989 and Eric M. Lee, Translations: Turner and Printmaking, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1993.
Powell 1983, p.10.
?Blank [partially obscured because the sheet is pasted to mount on 2 sides]
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘23’ and ’14 b’ centre and ‘D27684’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 167’ centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Amalfi, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-amalfi-for-rogerss-italy-r1133327, accessed 01 December 2021.