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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Via dei Sepolcri, Pompeii, Looking towards the Porta Ercolano 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 5 Recto:
Via dei Sepolcri, Pompeii, Looking towards the Porta Ercolano 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXV 5
Pencil on white wove paper, 113 x 189 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘14’ centre of street and ‘14’ bottom right
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in blue ink ‘278’ bottom right and ‘5 top right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXV 5 bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s exploration of Pompeii began at the north-west entrance to the site, the Via dei Sepolcri or Via delle Tombe (Street of the Tombs) which could be reached directly from the nineteenth-century road between Naples and Salerno. This sketch depicts the view looking east towards the city walls and the Porta Ercolano (Herculaneum Gate), represented by the two arches flanking the street at the vanishing point of the composition. Turner’s viewpoint is just outside the entrance to the Villa of Diomedes, which takes its name from the inscription to Marcus Arrius Diomedes on the opposite side of the road, see folio 5 verso (D15747). As Cecilia Powell has discussed, the artist made a significant number of drawings from various angles up and down the Via dei Sepolcri, and consequently some of the ancient tombs appear repeatedly in different views.1 Amongst the monuments which can be seen in this vista are, on the left-hand side of the road, the Tomb of Velasius Gratus and the Tomb of Libella and his son, and on the right, the Tomb of Scaurus, and the Tomb of Naevolia Tyche. A more detailed study of these structures can be found on folio 5 verso (D15747). For near-contemporaneous views of a similar nature see James Hakewill (1778–1843), Entrance of Pompeii from Rome 1816 (British School at Rome Library),2 and an engraving after an 1817 drawing by James Pattinson Cockburn (1779–1847).3
For a general discussion of Turner’s visit to Pompeii see the introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
September 2010

Powell 1987, p.82.
See Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.55, p.286, reproduced.
‘View up the Street of Tombs, Looking to the Gates’, reproduced in Pompeii, Illustrated with Picturesque Views, Engraved by W.B. Cooke, from the Original Drawings of Liet. Col. Cockburn, of the Royal Artillery, vol.II, London 1827, pl.45, between pp.28–9.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Via dei Sepolcri, Pompeii, Looking towards the Porta Ercolano 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, September 2010, 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-via-dei-sepolcri-pompeii-looking-towards-the-porta-ercolano-r1138212, accessed 25 May 2024.