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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Transcription of Latin Inscription from a Tomb near the Ponte Lucano; and Notes on Tivoli and the Surrounding Area 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 1 Recto:
Transcription of Latin Inscription from a Tomb near the Ponte Lucano; and Notes on Tivoli and the Surrounding Area 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 1
Inscribed by the artist in pencil (see main catalogue entry) on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in blue ink ‘332’ top right and ‘1’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIX 1’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This page contains two sets of inscriptions by Turner related to his 1819 visit to Tivoli. On the left-hand side the artist has copied a Latin text found near the Tomb of the Plautii, a cylindrical first-century monument of Travertine stone, built on the Via Valeria near the Ponte Lucano about approximately two miles west of Tivoli. The inscription, which Turner has accurately transcribed as ‘ M PLAVTIVS | M F ANIEN | LVCANVS | TI. CLAVDIVS | TI. F PAL. | NERO. AED. CVR | PR. CENS. TTVIR. V | M. XIV’, can be found on a tombstone to the left beyond the nearby Ponte Lucano.1 It was once thought to indicate that the mausoleum belonged to Marcus Plautius Lucanus (hence the tomb has sometimes historically been known by this name). However, scholars later agreed that the text in fact refers to the building of the bridge by the senators, Marcus Plautius Lucanus and Tiberius Claudius Nero at mile ‘XIV’ of the ancient Via Tiburtina.2 The tomb itself bears a different inscription inset within the exterior wall whilst other monumental slabs in front of the building commemorate the names of Plautius family buried there, see for example the etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), Inscrizioni del Mausoleo della Famiglia de’Plauzi a Ponte Lugano, in Le antichità Romane 1756.3 Turner made several sketches of the Ponte Lucano and the Tomb of the Plautii, see folio 27 verso (D14975).
The remainder of the page contains notes by Turner on Tivoli and the surrounding area:
Near the Lake Sofraturo [Solfatara] was a Temple to | Faunus of whom Latinus consulted upon the lands | of Eneas Virgil – Albule where thermae | built by M Agrippa [...] | Temple of Vesta [?Store... Circulr Deuz Siscemis] of the Col Capital pure marble | then the [?ornaments] of Col 10 col 7 white | Temple of Sybill St George [diagram of ground plan of temple] | Manlius Vospiscus [L...] | M Tiburtini St Antonio Villa Horace | anienne aqueduct of Tibur Villa of | Quintilus Varus Temple [...] | Temple de la Tosse Porta Oscuro | Porta Obscure Villa Cassius | [?Catlus] & Bust of Greco[...] Ortina [Reli...] Porta Croce | His land and G [...] Appolus Cyther[...] [...] [...] called S Croce
The source of Turner’s information is currently unidentified although it is likely to have been a contemporary guidebook. There are some similarities to Revd John Chetwode Eustace’s, A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published 1813, notes from which appear in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13951–D13952; Turner Bequest CLXXII 11–11a).

Nicola Moorby
December 2009

A copy of the lettering in Antonio Nibby’s Viaggio Antiquario ne’contorni di Roma, published in 1819, shows Turner’s transcription to be almost entirely accurate. See http://avirel.unitus.it/bd/autori/nibby/viaggio_antiquario_i/capo_vii.html>, accessed December 2009.
Ibid., and Revd Jeremiah Donovan, Rome Ancient and Modern, and its Environs, Rome 1844, vol.4, p.750.
Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.288, reproduced p.261.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Transcription of Latin Inscription from a Tomb near the Ponte Lucano; and Notes on Tivoli and the Surrounding Area 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-transcription-of-latin-inscription-from-a-tomb-near-the-r1137565, accessed 24 May 2024.