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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Ponte Vecchio, Florence; ?Vignette Study for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
The Ponte Vecchio, Florence; ?Vignette Study for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 95
Pencil and watercolour, approximately 115 x 140 mm on white wove paper, 191 x 243 mm
Inscribed by John Ruskin in red ink ‘(95’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 95’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This is an unfinished design for a vignette that Turner produced to illustrate a description of Florence in Rogers’s Italy. It presents a different scene from the one that was eventually published in Italy, which shows a view of Florence seen from Fiesole (see Tate D27673; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 156). Here, Turner experiments with a composition that showcases some of the city’s salient architectural and cultural landmarks: the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi. These subjects are perfectly suited to the content of Rogers’s verses on Florence, which primarily celebrate the city’s artistic treasures and cultural heritage. Turner had visited the Uffizi Gallery in 1819 and again in 1828, when he may have been inspired by Titian’s Venus of Urbino to paint his Reclining Venus of 1828 (Tate N05498).1
The evolution of Florence is not the only example in the Italy series of an unconventional preliminary composition being abandoned for a more familiar view; a similar shift can be observed in the preparatory and final designs that Turner produced for Venice (see Tate D27519; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 2 and Tate D27710; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 193). Rogers’s tastes were at least partly responsible for the preponderance of traditional compositions. Rogers’s biographer, P.W. Clayden, says of the illustrations: ‘Everything was done under Rogers’s own constant direction and supervision. He chose the subjects, suggested the character of the pictures, superintended their execution, and made the illustrations almost as much his own as the letter-press they adorned.’2 The two men appear to have had a good working relationship throughout the production of Italy and they may have agreed that the conventional Italian views such as those shown in Florence, Venice, and Rome, Castel San Angelo (see Tate D27677; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 160) were best suited to the overall tone and aesthetic of Rogers’s verses.3
There are ruled pencil lines partially visible along all four sides of sheet, framing the vignette. Cecilia Powell has noted such lines were often made by the engravers during the process of squaring-up the designs for reduction.4
The study was once part of a parcel labelled by John Ruskin as ‘A.B. 40. PO. Vignette beginnings, once on a roll. Worthless’.5 Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’.6
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.296; Warrell 1991, p.55.
P.W. Clayden, Rogers and his Contemporaries, vol.II, London 1889, p.3.
See Powell 1983, p.4.
Ibid., p.10.
Finberg 1909, vol.II, p.894.
Finberg 1909, vol.I, p.xi..
Inscribed by an unknown hand in blue pencil ‘222’ bottom centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘The Ponte Vecchio, Florence; ?Vignette Study for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 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-the-ponte-vecchio-florence-vignette-study-for-rogerss-italy-r1133308, accessed 30 May 2024.