Room 8 in Turner Collection

Travellers in Italy from Grand Tourists to Turner

Lake Nemi

John Robert Cozens, Lake Nemi  c.1783–8

This finished watercolour is based on a study Cozens made on the spot, and is one of a number of his compositions of Lake Nemi. The view looks from above the lake towards the ancient hill town of Genzano, one of the ‘Castelli Romani’ nestling in the Alban hills to the south of Rome. Formed from a volcanic crater, Lake Nemi was one of the most popular sites for artists and those on the Grand Tour to visit, because of its natural beauty and its close association with Roman history and mythology.

Gallery label, April 2007

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Venice: The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) - Late Morning

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Venice: The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) - Late Morning  1819

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Padua

John Robert Cozens, Padua  after 1782

This dramatic work is based upon studies Cozens made during his second trip to Italy. Cozens travelled in the retinue of the young William Beckford. They arrived in Padua on 18 June 1782, where Cozens made a sketch of a thunderstorm, which he used as the basis for this work. In his Italian travel journal, Beckford wrote, after a visit to the church of Santa Giustina in Padua, that ‘a peal of thunder reverberated through the vaults and cupolas, as I expected would have shaken them to their foundations. The principal dome appeared invested with a sheet of fire’.

Gallery label, April 2007

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The Bay of Naples and the Mole Lighthouse

Thomas Jones, The Bay of Naples and the Mole Lighthouse  1782

Jones recorded in his Memoirs that between May 1780 and May 1782 he took lodgings in Naples in a 'large new built house or Palace' situated opposite the Custom House for Salt in a noisy area near the old harbour. Here he had access to the flat roof, and from this elevated vantage point made a number of striking oil sketches of Neapolitan rooftops, and probably this view of the Bay of Naples as well. Jones has orientated himself away from the harbour, and painted a simple stretch of water looking across to the Sorrentine peninsula. The view is articulated only by the lighthouse and a sequence of rhythmically placed feluccas. The overwhelming impression is one of stillness and calm.

Gallery label, September 1997

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Florence

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Florence  c.1827

Shortly before his second trip to Italy
in 1828, Turner completed a watercolour of the celebrated view over Florence
from the church of San Miniato, on the other side of the River Arno. This is
a study for the finished work. Turner
used pencil sketches he had made more than eight years earlier to set out the basic composition. He then used this study as a guide when producing the finished watercolour, changing only certain details.

There are at least two versions of the completed watercolour, so Turner may have referred to this study in order to repeat his design.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Mount Vesuvius from Torre dell’Annunziata near Naples

Thomas Jones, Mount Vesuvius from Torre dell’Annunziata near Naples  1783

Jones was a pupil of Richard Wilson, and due to his influence strove to produce large-scale classical landscapes. From 1776-83 he was in Italy, initially hoping to win commissions from Grand Tourists. The most remarkable works he produced there, however, were his small oil sketches made directly from nature, the best known of these being his highly original views of Neapolitan buildings and rooftops. This landscape also displays the realism associated with these works, but with a hint of the Picturesque (for instance the inclusion of the fisherman in the foreground). Jones most probably based this view on a sketch he made of Vesuvius from Torre Annunziate when staying with the artist G B Lusieri in 1783.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Lake Nemi

John Robert Cozens, Lake Nemi  Date not known

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The Gulf of Salerno

John Robert Cozens, The Gulf of Salerno  c.1790

During his visit to Italy with William Beckford in 1782, Cozens spent some time sketching on the south-west coast in and around Naples. Among the most spectacular of the finished watercolours to have emerged from this time is this view of the gulf of Salerno. Typically, Cozens employs a limited palette of muted grey-green and blue, shot through by the shaft of sunlight which breaks through the clouded sky. It is in such watercolours that Cozens demonstrated his desire to express the ‘sublime’; an aesthetic movement of this time which aimed to produce an emotional response to the power and grandeur of nature.

Gallery label, April 2007

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Rome: The Forum

William Pars, Rome: The Forum  c.1775

William Pars travelled to Italy in 1775 on a studentship given to him by the Society of Dilettanti, a dining club which sponsored and promoted the study of classical art and the creation of new works in the classical style. Pars spent much of his time in Rome, alongside other prominent British landscape painters including Francis Towne, John ‘Warwick’ Smith, and Thomas Jones, to whom he presented this watercolour of the Roman Forum. Pars remained in Italy until his death in 1782, when, despite being ‘a robust, hearty fellow’, he contracted ‘dropsy of the breast’, apparently caused by standing in water while sketching.

Gallery label, April 2007

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The Interior of the Colosseum

William Pars, The Interior of the Colosseum  c.1775

Pars was sent to Rome on a bursary by the Society of Dilettanti in 1775; he remained in Italy until his death from pleurisy seven years later. Although he had been a portrait painter from the start of his career, and remained one, he is now known almost exclusively for his work as a landscape watercolourist. In Italy he associated with the large group of English artists working in Rome, notably John 'Warwick' Smith, Francis Towne and Thomas Jones. This watercolour was a preliminary study for a more highly finished version made for sale to a patron. The Colosseum had been consecrated in 1750 as a memorial to the early Christians martyred there, and a chapel and Stations of the Cross erected round the interior.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Rocks and Trees at Tivoli

Francis Towne, Rocks and Trees at Tivoli  1781

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Monte Cavo, I

Francis Towne, Monte Cavo, I  1781

This is one of two watercolours Towne made of Monte Cavo, the highest mountain in the Alban Hills, to the south of Rome. Unlike many of his other Italian watercolours, in which colour is contained within a tighly controlled line, here Towne paints more freely, in order to capture the subtle play of light on the verdant mountain. The watercolour is inscribed on the reverse, ‘Italy No 53. The Spot where Hannibal is said to have lookd at Rome from. Drawn by Francis Towne on the spot 1781’ .Although Towne’s watercolour is based upon direct observation, his choice of motif is clearly determined by his knowledge of the classical past.

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In the Road to Santa Maria de’Monti, near Naples: Morning

Thomas Jones, In the Road to Santa Maria de’Monti, near Naples: Morning  1781

Jones spent nearly eight years in Italy, from 1776 to 1783, chiefly in Rome and Naples. He passed his time, he wrote, 'very Agreeably rambling about and Making a Number of Views and Sketches of the Different scenes in this most picturesque Country'. Sometimes his friends among the English artists in Italy, including Francis Towne and William Pars, accompanied him. The road depicted here, overhung with umbrella pines and walnut trees, was a favourite haunt - a 'romantick Dingle' Jones called it. It was while lodging in Naples that Jones made his now famous oil sketches of roof top views.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Monte Cassino

John `Warwick’ Smith, Monte Cassino  Date not known

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Ponte Nomentana

Richard Wilson, Ponte Nomentana  1754

This is one of twenty ‘views of the environs of Rome’ commissioned from Wilson by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. The commission was negotiated by Wilson's friend Thomas Jenkins, who acted as an agent acquiring artworks for British Grand Tourists. Wilson also made two paintings of Roman subjects for Dartmouth, one of which is in the Tate Collection. The Ponte Nomentana, about two miles north-east of Rome, carried the old Roman Via Nomentana across the River Anio to the town of Mentana.

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The Lateran, Rome

John Downman, The Lateran, Rome  1774

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The Crater of Vesuvius

John Downman, The Crater of Vesuvius  1774

John Downman visited Italy in 1773 with his fellow artist, Joseph Wright. Although within his professional career he was principally recognised as a portraitist, the informal studies that Downman made during his Italian travels reveal his highly original talent for landscape. His landscape studies, like the one shown here, were made primarily in monochrome washes and in pen and ink. Unlike the majority of views of Vesuvius by other artists, which show the volcano from a distance within the wider landscape, Downman focuses upon the play of light and shadow on the stark, rock-strewn crater.

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A Post-House near Florence

William Marlow, A Post-House near Florence  c.1770

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Piazza Nettuno, Bologna

William Parrott, Piazza Nettuno, Bologna  Date not known

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Inside the Arcade of the Colosseum

Joseph Wright of Derby, Inside the Arcade of the Colosseum  c.1774–5

The Colosseum is one of the most impressive of all the great monuments of classical Rome. Constructed between AD 72 and 80, it was used for gladiatorial combats, games and other festivities. Because of its immense scale, it could only be shown in its entirety from a distant viewpoint. Some artists, like Wright, instead chose to depict a section of the arcade, stressing its monumentality. This dramatic composition is reminiscent of the powerful etchings made by the Italian printmaker and architect Piranesi, and may indeed have been inspired by his example.

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Ariccia, Buildings on the Edge of the Town. Verso: Relative Positions of the Benedictine Convent of the Madona of the Galoro near Larici and the Gardens of the Convent of the Capuchins at Albano as Well as the Dome of the Church at L’Arriccia

Thomas Jones, Ariccia, Buildings on the Edge of the Town. Verso: Relative Positions of the Benedictine Convent of the Madona of the Galoro near Larici and the Gardens of the Convent of the Capuchins at Albano as Well as the Dome of the Church at L’Arriccia  1777

Jones dated this view 22 May 1777, and his memoir for that day confirms that he went to ‘Larici’ (Arricia) and to the small nearby village of ‘Galoro’ (Galloro), returning to Genzano ‘by the Appian Way to dinner by 4’. Most representations of Ariccia from this time show the more famous view looking up the rugged hill-face to Bernini’s Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunzione and the Palazzo Chigi. Jones instead shows it from the opposite side, from the south-east. This viewpoint is so rare that this watercolour was until recently misidentified as a convent at Albano.

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Monte Cavo, II

Francis Towne, Monte Cavo, II  1781

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Tivoli

Jonathan Skelton, Tivoli  1758

Jonathan Skelton is an important figure in the emergence of the British landscape tradition, although comparatively little is known about him, other than the evidence of his surviving works and a handful of letters sent from Italy to his British patron. He arrived in Rome in December 1757 and embarked upon an intense study of the surrounding landscape. Tivoli had a particulr appeal for Skelton, which he described as ‘ye only school where our two most celebrated Landscape Painters Claude and Gasper studied’. Skelton, who appeared to exist on a near starvation diet, died of a fever in Rome in January 1759.

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Torre delle Grotte

Richard Wilson, Torre delle Grotte  Date not known

This drawing in black chalk on a chalky grey-tinted paper shows Wilson's use of the stump (a roll of paper or soft leather cut to a blunt point at each end) to smudge and soften the black chalk. Wilson has applied subtle white chalk lines to the tops of the rocks and boats. Broader applications of white chalk in the sky, sea and rocks are slightly smudged, giving a sense of the moonlight falling over the scene. These highlights give luminosity to the drawing.

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A Fallen Tree

Carlo Labruzzi, A Fallen Tree  Date not known

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Wood near Albano

Francis Towne, Wood near Albano  1781

The watercolours which Francis Towne made in Italy between 1780 and 1781, and in the Alps on his return to England, are usually regarded as amongst his finest. His practice was to make a pencil skech on the spot, add washes of monochrome or colour, then reinforce the pencil line in pen and ink - as if to emphasise the status of his drawings as sketches. The white of the paper in this watercolour brilliantly suggests the shafts of intense sunlight penentrating through the wooded glades at Albano, which is situated to the south-east of Rome. Towne may have known the watercolours made at Albano a few years earlier by his Devon acquaintance and friend John Downman (no.55).

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Ariccia

Richard Wilson, Ariccia  c.1754–6

The Welsh artist Richard Wilson was one of the most important landscape painters working in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century. The majority of his drawings are in chalks, pen and ink or pencil. His pupil, Thomas Jones (no.44), reported that Wilson 'did not approve of tinted Drawings' (that is watercolours) which he felt 'hurt the Eye for fine Colouring'.
Ariccia is situated south-east of Rome in the Alban Hills. Wilson shows the famous view looking towards the Palazzo Chigi and Bernini's church of Santa Maria dell'Assunzione. He has used a stump (a tightly rolled paper or leather cylinder with rounded points) to soften and smudge some of the black chalk, thus creating rich areas of tone.

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11. Capraea

John `Warwick’ Smith, 11. Capraea  1778–9

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Circus of Caracalla

Richard Wilson, Circus of Caracalla  Date not known

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Grotto of Neptune at Tivoli

Carlo Labruzzi, Grotto of Neptune at Tivoli  Date not known

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Art in this room

Lake Nemi
John Robert Cozens Lake Nemi c.1783–8
Venice: The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) - Late Morning
Joseph Mallord William Turner Venice: The Campanile of San Marco (St Mark’s) and the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) - Late Morning 1819
Padua
John Robert Cozens Padua after 1782
The Bay of Naples and the Mole Lighthouse
Thomas Jones The Bay of Naples and the Mole Lighthouse 1782
Florence
Joseph Mallord William Turner Florence c.1827
Mount Vesuvius from Torre dell’Annunziata near Naples
Thomas Jones Mount Vesuvius from Torre dell’Annunziata near Naples 1783

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