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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Interior of St Peter's, Rome, from next to the Monument of Paul III (Right) 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 86 Recto:
Interior of St Peter’s, Rome, from next to the Monument of Paul III (Right) 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 85
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 189 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘G’ within vault at top centre and ‘R’ and ‘R’ within columns on right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXVIII 85’ top left, inverted
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Despite the wide range of subject matter represented within this sketchbook, Turner labelled it the ‘St Peter’s’ sketchbook, a title which derives from a series of eight studies recording scenes from the interior of the famous basilica, see folios 17 verso, 84 and 85–87 (D16189, D16309, and D16311–D16315; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 17a, 83, and 84–86). These sketches, executed swiftly in the relative gloom of the church, are principally concerned with exploring the complex perspective of the architectural arrangement of the building, looking down through the side aisles and nave towards the transepts and the crossing. As Cecilia Powell has written they ‘vividly record the experience of being in the huge, interlocking spaces of a vast building’.1 Turner may have referred to them when painting a finished watercolour for Walter Fawkes, Interior of St. Peter’s, Rome 1821 (The Morgan Library & Museum, New York).2
Powell has identified this inverted sketch as a view of the interior from next to the Monument to Pope Paul III in the apse of the basilica. The sketch looks down towards the crossing and the twisted columns of Bernini’s baldacchino, a bronze canopy which stands over the high altar beneath the dome of the church. In order to gain such a viewpoint Turner must have tucked himself into the space in between the Altar of the Chair and the Monument to Urban VIII. The hand of the Pope and the head of one of the lower figures from the latter can be seen on the left-hand side of the page. On the right meanwhile is the Monument to Paul III. Executed by Guglielmo della Porta (1533–1602) after designs by Michelangelo, the work comprises two reclining allegorical figures, surmounted by a bronze statue of the Pope.3 See also another sketch on folio 68 verso (D16279; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 67a) which depicts the figures of Justice and Prudence from the base of the monument.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

Powell 1987, p.[41].
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.724; reproduced in colour in Cara Dufour Denison, Peter Dreyer, William M. Griswold et al., From Mantegna to Picasso: Drawings from the Thaw Collection at the Pierpoint Morgan Library, New York, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1996, p.107 no.52

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Interior of St Peter’s, Rome, from next to the Monument of Paul III (Right) 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 2009, 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-interior-of-st-peters-rome-from-next-to-the-monument-of-paul-r1139825, accessed 24 October 2021.