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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Study for a Vignette, possibly Hadrian's Villa, or Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples c.1842

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Study for a Vignette, possibly Hadrian’s Villa, or Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples circa 1842
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24
Watercolour, approximately 170 x 210 mm on board, 334 x 277 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘Hadrian’s Villa’ bottom right
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘(24’ bottom right
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘AB 117 P’ and ‘M’ top left, inverted
and ‘CLXXX’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 24’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The subject of this highly coloured landscape is open to debate. Although Turner inscribed it ‘Hadrian’s Villa’ it has also been suggested that the scene depicts a view of the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the distance.1
Owing to the Italianate theme of the vignette, Jan Piggott has previously linked this work with Turner’s series of illustrations for Rogers’ Italy (1830).2 The artist produced a preparatory study and a finished vignette of the Bay of Naples for Rogers’s Italy, both of which show a similar arrangement of the bay in the foreground and Mount Vesuvius in the distance (see Tate D27660; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 143 and Tate D27530; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 13). However, the expressive brushstrokes and fiery colours that Turner employs are more closely related to the style and palette of two other vignette studies, both of which may show the Villa Madama, another subject in Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27652; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 135 and Tate D40316; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24v, the latter is the verso of this watercolour). It seems likely that Turner produced the compositions at the same time. In light of a watermark on one of the sheets these works are now tentatively dated circa 1842.
The top of the watercolour has been marked with a ruled pencil line and there is also another line in purple watercolour near the top of the sheet.

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

Piggott 1993, p.95.
Piggott 1993, p.95.

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Study for a Vignette, possibly Hadrian’s Villa, or Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples c.1842 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-study-for-a-vignette-possibly-hadrians-villa-or-vesuvius-and-r1133871, accessed 21 May 2024.