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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Landscape Views from the Via Appia between Rome and Naples; Nemi, and Cicero's Tomb near Formia 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 30 Recto:
Landscape Views from the Via Appia between Rome and Naples; Nemi, and Cicero’s Tomb near Formia 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXX 29
Pencil on white wove paper, 161 x 101 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘29’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXX 29’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
In addition to using the Vatican Fragments sketchbook to record details of art and architecture in Rome, Turner also appears to have employed it on several occasions during his journey to or from Naples. This page contains several landscape views from the route between the two cities on the Via Appia. The rough nature of Turner’s draughtsmanship and the way in which the artist has crammed the successive drawings onto a single page, suggests that they must have been executed at speed, possibly from a moving carriage.
The sketch at the top of the page is part of a view of Lake Nemi, approximately eighteen miles south-east of Rome. The view continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 29 verso (D15160; Turner Bequest CLXXX 28a).
The subject of the central sketch is the so-called Tomb of Cicero, a large mausoleum on the Via Appia, one mile west of Formia. Comprised of a square base upon which is set a crumbling cone, it is popularly believed to be the tomb of the Roman orator and philosopher, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), but despite the fact that he is documented as meeting his death in Formia, there is no concrete evidence to support this. A villa connected with him is also believed to have stood in the vicinity. See also folios 1 verso (D15106; Turner Bequest CLXXX 1a), and a near-contemporaneous drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Tomb of Cicero nr Mola di Gaeta, ?1817 (British School at Rome Library).1 Turner had listed the monument amongst his notes taken from Revd John Chetwode Eustace’s A Classical Tour Through Italy, and had furthermore made a thumbnail pen-and-ink copy of a view after John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), see the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13954 and D13968; Turner Bequest CLXXII 12a and 20). Cicero was obviously a historical figure who interested him. He later produced a finished oil painting, Cicero at his Villa exhibited 1839 (private collection).2
The sketch at the bottom of the page is also part of a view featuring the Tomb of Cicero. The vista continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 29 verso (D15160; Turner Bequest CLXXX 28a). The site was described by Octavian Blewitt in his Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy, published 1853:
Shortly before reaching Mola, the road opens upon the charming bay of Gaeta, bounded on the south by its celebrated headland, covered with bright battlements and villas ... As we advance, a massive circular tower, standing on a square base in the midst of the vineyard on the right, and overhung by a carrouba tree, is a picturesque object in the landscape, and would probably be selected by the artist as striking feature in every view of the bay from this road, even if it did not possess a higher interest as the Tomb of Cicero. This massive sepulchre ... consists of two stories above an immense square base, and is surmounted with a small lantern with windows ... and on the shore ... considerable remains still exist to denote the position of the Formia villa.3
This side of Turner’s drawing depicts the landscape immediately surrounding the tomb with the headland of the bay of Gaeta visible in the background.4
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, no.5.39, reproduced p.265.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.381, reproduced.
Octavian Blewitt, Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy, London 1853, p.76.
Compare a painting by James Giles (1801–70), Cicero’s Tomb at the Bay of Gaeta 1837, Aberdeen Art Gallery, http://www.aagm.co.uk/thecollections/objects/object/Cicero-s-Tomb-at-the-Bay-of-Gaeta, accessed December 2009.

Nicola Moorby
December 2009

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Landscape Views from the Via Appia between Rome and Naples; Nemi, and Cicero’s Tomb near Formia 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, December 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-landscape-views-from-the-via-appia-between-rome-and-naples-r1139573, accessed 26 October 2021.