Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
View of the Forum, Rome, with a Rainbow 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 46
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 46
Pencil, watercolour, gouache and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 230 x 367 mm
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 46’ bottom right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 46’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
[Oxford Loan Collection], University of Oxford, 1878–1916 (101 and 28).
Watercolours by J.M.W. Turner, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, May–June 1966 (27, reproduced).
Classical Sites and Monuments, British Museum, London, July–October 1971 (64).
Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, British Museum, London, May 1975–February 1976 (67, reproduced, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a rainbow’).
Turner and the Sublime, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, November 1980–January 1981, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, February–April 1981, British Museum, London, May–September 1981 (82, reproduced).
Turner Abroad: Watercolours from the Turner Bequest Loaned by the British Museum, Tate Gallery, London, June–December 1983 (no catalogue).
Watercolours from the Turner Bequest, Tate Gallery, London, April–October 1987 (no catalogue).
Turner and Byron, Tate Gallery, London, June–September 1992 (102, reproduced and in colour).
Imagining Rome: British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century, City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol, May–June 1996 (5, reproduced in colour).
Viaggio in Italia: Un corteo magico dal Cinquecento al Novecento, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa, March–July 2001 (2, reproduced in colour).
J.M.W. Turner, National Gallery of Art, Washington, October 2007–January 2008, Dallas Museum of Art, February–May 2008, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June–September 2008 (92, reproduced in colour).
Catalogue of Sketches by Turner Lent by The Trustees of the National Gallery to the Ruskin Drawing School, Oxford, London 1878, nos.101 (1st edition), 28 (2nd edition), as ‘The Forum’.
E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (eds.), Library Edition: The Works of John Ruskin: Volume XIII: Turner: The Harbours of England; Catalogues and Notes, London 1904, no.28, p.562, as ‘Rome. The Forum’.
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.563, as ‘The Forum; with remains of Temple of Castor, S. Lorenzo in Miranda, and Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, &c. Water colour. Oxford, 101–28.’.
Francis W. Hawcroft, Exhibition of Watercolours by J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 1966, no.27, reproduced [p.12], as ‘The Forum, Rome’.
Andrew Wilton, Classical Sites and Monuments, exhibition catalogue, British Museum, London 1971, no.64, [p.16], as ‘View of the Roman Forum’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner in the British Museum: Drawings and Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, British Museum, London 1975, no.67, p.54, reproduced, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a rainbow’.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, pp.142–3, reproduced in colour, p.141, pl.152, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a rainbow’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner and the Sublime, exhibition catalogue, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto 1980, no.82, pp.115 under no.16, 165–6, reproduced, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a Rainbow’.
Guy Weelan, J.M.W. Turner, trans. I. Mark Paris, New York 1982, reproduced p.75 no.62 , as ‘Rome: the Forum with a Rainbow’.
Andrew Wilton, Turner Abroad: France; Italy; Germany; Switzerland, London 1982, pp.18, 43, reproduced in colour pl.36 p., as ‘Rome: the Forum with a rainbow’.
John Gage, Jerrold Ziff, Nicholas Alfrey and others, J.M.W. Turner, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire du British Council, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris 1983, p.221 under no.148.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, pp.255, 256.
David Blayney Brown, The Art of J.M.W. Turner, London 1990, p.163, reproduced in colour, p.162 top, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a Rainbow’.
David Blayney Brown, Turner and Byron, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1992, p.128 no.102 reproduced, and in colour, p.72, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a Rainbow’.
Michael Liversidge and Catherine Edwards, Imagining Rome: British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century, exhibition catalogue, City Museum and Art Gallery, Bristol 1996, pp.76–7 no.46, reproduced in colour, as ‘Rome. The Forum with a rainbow’.
Inge Herold, Turner on Tour, Munich and New York 1997, pp.51–2, reproduced in colour, p.49, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a Rainbow’.
Giuseppe Marcenaro and Piero Boragina, Viaggio in Italia: Un corteo magico dal Cinquecento al Novecento, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Ducale, Genoa 2001, ‘Turner et l’Italia’ no.2, p.273 reproduced in colour as ‘Roma. Il Foro con l’arcobaleno’.
Barry Venning, Turner, Art & Ideas, London 2003, p.159.
Roderick Cavaliero, Italia Romantic: English Romantics and Italian Freedom, London 2005, pp.137–8.
Helen Dorey, John Soane & JMW Turner: Illuminating a Friendship, exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane’s Museum, London 2007, p.6.
Ian Warrell (ed.), Franklin Kelly and others, J.M.W. Turner, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 2007, no.92, pp.129, 132, reproduced in colour, as ‘Rome: The Forum with a Rainbow’.
The subject of this coloured study is a view of the Roman Forum, the heart of political, commercial and judicial life in ancient Rome. The central focus of the composition is the remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, a building dating from the fifth century BC of which only three Corinthian columns and a surmounting section of entablature from the first century AD survive. The prominent edifice beyond is the portico of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina with the façade of San Lorenzo in Miranda rising above it. This Roman temple was first dedicated to Faustina, the wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius in the second century AD but was later converted into a church following the belief that St Lawrence had been condemned to death there. During the seventeenth century, the antique remains were incorporated within a newly designed Baroque exterior. Also partially visible to the right is part of the adjacent Church of Santi Cosama e Damiano with the cupola of the Temple of Romulus and the massive barrel arched vaults of the Basilica of Constantine. On the far left-hand side is the Torre dei Milize, and on the far right, the Church of Santa Maria Liberatrice, which was demolished at the beginning of the twentieth century during excavation of the Forum. Like many drawings within the Rome C. Studies sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner first sketched a rough pencil outline before more fully developing the view in watercolour and gouache applied with great vigour and energy, particularly to describe the foreground vegetation. Andrew Wilton has suggested that the striking effect of dark ochre and grey masonry against the intensely blue sky recalls the work of contemporary Italian vedute artists, such as Carlo Labruzzi (1748–1817), Antonio Zucchi (1726–1795) and Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820).1
During his 1819 sojourn in Rome, Turner made a thorough study of the buildings and monuments of the Forum from a host of different angles. The Rome: C. Studies sketchbook contains a number of detailed compositions, principally featuring views of the eastern end with the Colosseum, and the Arches of Constantine and Titus (see D16351, D16354, D16355, D16365, D16367, D16370, D16372, D16376, D16379, D16389; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 25, 28, 29, 38, 40, 43, 44, 47, 50, 58). Pencil sketches related to this watercolour can found within the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (see Tate D15395–D15396; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 52–52a). The design is also similar to the view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith, Campo Vaccino from Select Views in Italy, copied by Turner in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13966; Turner Bequest CLXXII 19, second from top right).
Despite the topographical accuracy of the view, the real focus of Turner’s watercolour is the dramatic and tonal effects of light. A great shaft of sun illuminates the Temple of Castor and Pollux and other antiquities, but leaves the lower slopes of the Palatine Hill plunged within deep shadow. The bright, opaque colours and freely applied brushwork creates a sense of freshness, enhancing the atmospheric contrast between the crumbling, skeletal ruins and the glowing vitality of the natural world. It has been suggested that like Turner’s painting of the Colosseum by moonlight (see D16339; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 13), this treatment captures the spirit of Lord Byron’s vision of Rome in Canto IV of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (published 1818).2 The juxtaposition of fragmentary classical remains with vibrant naturalistic effects of light and weather find parallels within Byron’s description of the decaying relics of a powerful empire and the themes of the passage of time, transience and renewal. In particular, the inclusion of the rainbow, a symbol of regeneration and life (for example, in Christian iconography) recalls the poet’s belief in the future political freedom and revival of Italy as a unified nation.3
Blank; inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘46’ centre, ‘CLXXXIX | 46’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge and ‘?[B of R.| 239]’and ‘Rome – The Forum’ bottom right, and stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 46’ bottom centre.
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