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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The West End of Milan Cathedral from the Piazza del Duomo 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 2 Recto:
The West End of Milan Cathedral from the Piazza del Duomo 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXV 2
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 185 mm
Inscribed by Turner in pencil ‘21’ towards bottom left, on arcade, ‘Red Cap green | [...] orange’ bottom centre, ‘[?Cork ...]’ bottom right, ‘w’, ‘[?y]’, ‘yell’, ‘w’ and ‘yellow’ towards centre right, across buildings, and ‘W’, ‘B’ and ‘R’ towards bottom right, over doorways
Inscribed by John Ruskin in blue ink ‘2’ top right and ‘300’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXV 2’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The Turner scholar C.F. Bell annotated Finberg’s 1909 Inventory entry (‘The Cathedral, Milan’): ‘West front’.1 The view is to the east across the piazza to the elaborate entrance front of Milan Cathedral, which itself appears much the same today. Continuing on folio 1 verso opposite (D14327), the arcades to the left, on the north side of the square, have been replaced and are dominated by the triumphal arch-style entrance to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcades; the buildings on the south side are approximately where the pavilions flanking the Via Guglielmo Marconi now stand.
Turner drew the identical view with less precision as he returned from his 1828–9 stay in Rome, in the Rome, Turin and Milan sketchbook (Tate D21686; Turner Bequest CCXXXV 12), even coincidentally leaving similar repeated or symmetrical elements of the cathedral blank to be inferred from those he did record, as was his habit with large buildings. The degree of elaboration and the arrangement of the buildings on the right in the currently untraced watercolour Milan of about 1833,2 engraved in 1835 for Walter Scott’s Life of Napoleon (Tate impressions: T04741, T04742, T04976, T06268), apparently indicate that he referred to the present page (see also the technical notes), omitting the corner of the arcade continued opposite.
In the present book there are further identified drawings of Milan and its cathedral on folios 3 recto, and 4 recto–15 recto (D14329, D14331–D14347), and two more at the end, on the recto and verso of folio 91 (D14487–D14488; Turner Bequest CLXXV 90, 90a). For the city in relation to Turner’s outward route east across northern Italy to Venice, see the sketchbook’s Introduction. Federico Crimi has suggested that Turner spent only one or two days there on his outward journey,3 although he apparently had time to produce (or at least begin) an unusual watercolour view looking out over roofs and towers from his hotel window in the larger Como and Venice sketchbook (Tate D15253; Turner Bequest CLXXXI 3);4 Crimi has tentatively linked that subject to the slight drawing on folio 18 recto (D14350).
Turner passed through again early the following year as he returned home, making more drawings in the Return from Italy sketchbook (Tate D16670, D16730–D16731, D16738, D16754; Tate CXCII 15a, 45a, 46, 52a, 63). As well as the view of the cathedral already mentioned, there are further studies of it and other buildings in the later Rome, Turin and Milan book (Tate D21683, D21684, D21688, D21692, D21760–D21764; Turner Bequest CCXXXV 10a, 11, 13, 15, 60a, 61, 61a–62, 62a).
Undated MS note by C.F. Bell (died 1966) in copy of Finberg 1909, Tate Britain Prints and Drawings Room, I, p.512.
Wilton 1979, p.431 no.1111; see also Crimi 2007, p.39 note 56.
See Crimi 2007, p.39.
Technical notes:
There is an adventitious splash of what may be pigment at the bottom centre, which perhaps occurred when Turner referred to the drawing in connection with the watercolour noted above.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

How to cite

Matthew Imms, ‘The West End of Milan Cathedral from the Piazza del Duomo 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, March 2017, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, July 2017, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-west-end-of-milan-cathedral-from-the-piazza-del-duomo-r1186442, accessed 24 May 2024.