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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Details of the Decorations of Raphael's Loggia in the Vatican: the Southern End and the First External Pier 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 14 Recto:
Details of the Decorations of Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican: the Southern End and the First External Pier 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 14
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil with various notes on the loggia decorations [see main catalogue entry]
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in blue ink ‘14’ top right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIX 14’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made a significant series of studies relating to the Loggia of Raphael, a colonnaded porch on the second floor of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, decorated by Raphael (1483–1520) and his studio. The sixteenth-century loggia, which looks out over the Cortile San Damaso and St Peter’s Square, is approximately 65 metres long and 4 metres wide (215 by 13 feet) and comprised of thirteen bays. Each of the square vaults of the ceiling contains four frescoes of Biblical scenes, popularly known as ‘Raphael’s Bible’, illustrating Old and New Testament scenes from the Creation to the Last Supper. Meanwhile, the spandrels, lunettes, walls, pilasters and window piers are covered with stuccowork and painted grotesque decorations, ornamental arabesque patterns interspersed with human and animal figures, modelled after ancient Roman wall paintings such as those in Nero’s Domus Aurea on the Palatine Hill in Rome. The loggia was originally open to the elements causing the gradual deterioration of the frescoes, but in 1816 the windows had been glazed, a fact which is not obviously apparent within Turner’s sketches. Several scholars have argued that his interest in the loggia may have been prompted by contemporary British anxieties regarding the poor condition of the frescoes.1
Turner made a closely detailed visual record of the loggia, particularly concentrating on the southern end of the interior and the decoration of the first three bays and window arches, see folios 13 verso–21 (D14955–D14965). From these drawings evolved the artist’s first finished oil painting following his Italian tour, the vast canvas Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).2 It has been widely suggested that Turner thought of the idea for the picture whilst he himself was actually sketching there.3 However, the precise nature of these studies, focusing almost exclusively on the first three bays of the loggia, strongly suggests that in fact the artist had already conceived the theme before commencing his sketching campaign and was specifically gathering material with the concept already well advanced in his mind. Virtually every element recorded within his drawings was employed within the composition of the finished painting, and there are no sketches extraneous to this purpose. Gerald Finley has suggested that it is reasonable to assume that the artist already knew at least some of the Biblical designs prior to his visit through reproductive drawings or prints.4 As Cecilia Powell has discussed, Turner was also able to cross-reference his on-the-spot sketches with detailed engravings of Raphael’s loggia which he borrowed from the Royal Academy during the later stages of the painting’s development in April 1820.5
The sketches on this page relate to his painted recreation of the loggia on the right-hand side of Rome from the Vatican. They relate to the fresco and stucco decorations on the southern end wall and the first external pier, and comprise three distinct groups, from left to right:
The sketch on the left-hand side of the page represents a general view of the southern end wall of the loggia. The fresco visible within the ceiling vault is The Creation of the Animals by Pellegrino da Modena (circa 1490–1523) and Giovanni da Udine (1487–1564),6 whilst beneath this are the lunette and fresco panels above the doorway added by Pope Paul III, which altered the original Leonine grotesque designs.7 Turner has accompanied the study with written notes pertaining to the details and colours of the fresco and stucco decorations including, from top to bottom: ‘Blue Blue’ beneath the winged figure on the ceiling; ‘W’ and ‘G’, ‘orange’ within the border above the arch; ‘Dark Blue | Ground Dark Cho | Border Yellow | strip’ within the central lunette; ‘Y | These Green | the Head from | Green’ and ‘as the Hon’ bottom left; and ‘Grey’ ‘Green B Oro G R’ at the bottom within the doorway. At the top right of the drawing the artist has added further extensive comments on the ceiling frescoes, particularly referring to God separates Light from Darkness by Giulio Romano (circa 1499–1546) and the Creation of the Sun and Moon by Guillaume de Marcillat (circa 1467/70–1529). The inscription reads: ‘Deity Lake with Light of White | the upper one Light ground | the Band dark green with yellow arabesque | God divides Darkness from Light over the door | and the Sun and Moon opposite a Light Gr Figures both Lake | each of them is held | with an angel in red lake | upon a Blue ground’ and ‘all the Arch W plaster yellow Spandrel figure W | Signs of the Zodiac and ornamented with amorini’.
The central group of sketches represents a detailed record of the decorations from one side of the doorway at the end of the loggia, including the dado and the frescoed imprese panels of Pope Paul III (pictorial designs incorporating a motto or word symbolising the name of the owner or patron).8 This part of the decorative scheme is no longer situ.9 The sketches are annotated with written comments including, from top to bottom: ‘Dado | green | gold’, ‘Light | Lake Border’, ‘simulation | of porphyry | [?cold] purple the | opposite corner’, and ‘orange’ within the rectangular panel at the bottom of the page.
The third group of sketches on the right-hand side of the page depicts details of the stucco and grotesque decorations from the lateral side of the first external pier extending to the first external transverse arch above (i.e. between the end of the loggia and the first window).10 On the left is the lower section of the pilaster, whilst continuing on the right is the upper part of the pilaster and the curve of the transverse arch above. Furthermore, Turner has drawn a separate thumbnail study of the two figures that appear in the central medallion from this scheme.11 The drawing is annotated with colour notes including ‘Dark’, ‘Lake’, ‘Blue’, ‘Yellow | B’, and, in the top right-hand corner, ‘Gold’. In addition there is a more extensive description relating to ...: ‘White Horse | upon Green Lilac Border | then the Red or White line in the middle of [...] | and Jewels at angles and middle of | each subject [?Brass] or Gold on the Green’. The fresco details from this pilaster have suffered damage from previous exposure to the elements and are now much faded.
Further studies related to the evolution of Rome from the Vatican can be found on folios 21 verso and 25–26 (D14966 and D14970–D14972), as well as an elaborate compositional drawing in pen and ink in the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16368; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 41).
See for example Powell 1987, p.116 and James Hamilton, Nicola Moorby, Christopher Baker and others, Turner & Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, pp.52–3.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
See Powell 1987, pp.62 and 116–17, and Hamilton et al. 2009, p.53. Hamilton, for example, has described the studies as ‘far more detailed than [Turner] would reasonably need if he were not sympathetic to, and even complicit in, a complete copying of them’ and has stated that the artist only ‘used a fraction’ of them.
Gerald Finley, ‘J.M.W. Turner’s “Rome from the Vatican”: A Palimpsest of History’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, vol.49, 1986, p.56 note 11.
See Cecilia Powell, ‘On the Wing through Space and Time: The Dynamics of Turner’s Italy’, in Forum for Modern Language Studies, vol.39, no.2, April 2003, pp.199–200.
Nicole Dacos, Le Logge di Rafaello: Maestro e bottega di fronte all’antico, Rome 1977, no.I.4, reproduced Tav.XI, and Nicole Dacos, The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, New York and London 2008, reproduced pl.102, p.141.
See Bernice F. Davidson, ‘Pope Paul III’s Additions to Raphael’s Logge: His Imprese in the Logge’, The Art Bulletin, vol.61, no.3, September 1979, pp.393, 397, reproduced figs.8 and 11.
See Davidson 1979, p.397, reproduced fig.12.
Ibid., p.393. The details are also recorded in the watercolours and engravings of Giovanni Volpato (1735–1803), see Giorgio Marini, Nicole Dacos, Michel Hochmann, Annie Gilet et al., Giovanni Volpato: Les Loges de Raphaël et la Galerie du Palais Farnèse, exhibition catalogue, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Tours 2007, no.2, reproduced in colour p.129, as ‘Lunette et Porte de la travée I’.
See Dacos 1977, reproduced Tav.XCV ‘a) Pilastro I.B, esterno. Stato attuale’. The design is repeated on the opposite side of the window arch.
See ibid., Tav.LXIV, ‘c) Giovanni da Udine, Sacrificio, Sottarco I.C, esterno’.

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Details of the Decorations of Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican: the Southern End and the First External Pier 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 2010, 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-details-of-the-decorations-of-raphaels-loggia-in-the-vatican-r1137588, accessed 25 June 2024.