Turner Bequest CLXXX 49 a
Cecilia Powell has identified the subject of the top sketch as the Medea sarcophagus.1 Powell has argued that although the study may represent Turner’s first exposure to the story of the tragic Greek figure, Medea, it does not appear to relate to the artist’s later oil painting, Vision of Medea 1828 (Tate, N00513).2 The finished picture shows Medea performing an incantation, which is not one of the scenes depicted on the sarcophagus.3 Furthermore, since Turner did not label this drawing, it is not clear whether he was even cognisant of the subject of the Vatican reliefs.4
The left-hand sketch from the middle row depicts the triangular base of a candelabrum decorated with reliefs and rams’ heads at the top. The object can be found in the fourth bay of the Galleria dei Candelabri (Gallery of Candelabra, formerly the Galleria delle Miscellanee).5
The second sketch from the left in the middle row is currently unidentified although it may represent part of the base of a candelabrum base.
The subject of the second sketch from the right in the middle row is a marble vase decorated with Dionysian reliefs. The object is found in the fourth bay of the Galleria dei Candelabri.6
On the far right-hand side of the middle row is a sketch of a vase decorated with handles in the shape of birds. The source is currently unidentified.
The sketch in the bottom left-hand corner depicts an urn, found in the fourth bay of the Galleria dei Candelabri.7
An unidentified sketch of an urn or vase.
The central sketch from the bottom row depicts a vessel of green, black and white textured stone, found in the fourth bay of the Galleria dei Candelabri.8
The sketch second from the right on the bottom row represents a cup shaped vase. Turner has inscribed the drawing ‘P’ which probably indicates that the object is made of porphyry.9
The sketch in the bottom right-hand corner appears to represent a black marble amphora found in the first bay of the Galleria dei Candelabri.10
How to cite
Nicola Moorby, ‘Studies of Sculptural Fragments from the Vatican Museums, Including the Medea Sarcophagus and a Selection of Vases from the Galleria dei Candelabri 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, November 2009, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www