Lot 392
  • 392

Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A. 1775-1851

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  • Joseph Mallord William Turner R.A.
  • Turin, from the portico of the Superga Church
  • watercolour over pencil heightened with scratching out  


John Ruskin;
C. Morland Agnew, 1904;
Paul Nitze;
Dorothy and Sydney Spivack;
Private Collection 


Sir Walter Armstrong, Turner, 1902, p. 218;
E.T. Cook, and A. Wedderburn, The Works of John Ruskin, 1904, vol. XIII, p. 423, no. 17 & p. 557, & vol. XVI, pl. vi; vol. xv, pl. 190; 
Andrew Wilton, The Life and work of J.M.W. Turner, 1979, p.383, no. 717

by J. Mitan,  for Hakewill's Italy, 1820 (R. 161)

Catalogue Note

This watercolour is one of a series which was commissioned for James Hakewill's Picturesque Tour of Italy of 1818-1820. Hakewill (1778-1843) came from a family of architects, painters and decorators and was himself an architect and topographical draughtsman. In 1816 Turner, as chairman of the Director of the Artist's General Benevolent Institution, wrote to him and offered him the position of steward. Hakewill turned the appointment down as he was about to leave England for Italy, but he did not forget this offer. During his tour of Italy he had the idea of producing a book and made over three hundred pencil sketches from nature, often using a camera obscura. On his return he comissioned Turner and a number of other artists to transform these drawings into watercolours and was paid 200 guineas by the publisher, John Murray.

The Hakewill views were greatly admired. Examples of the watercolours and engravings appeared in public exhibitions in the 1820's and 1830's and later in 1878 Ruskin included seven of these scenes, including this watercolour, in the exhibition of his collection of Turner watercolours as he clearly held them in high regard.

Of this watercolour, Ruskin noted that where Prout, Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto consistently put their most important figures at the base of pillars, 'Turner found out their secret very early, the most prominent instance of his composition on this principle being the drawing of Turin from the Superga, in Hakewill's Italy,' (see Cook and Wedderburn, opcit, 1904, vol, XIII, p. 423).

Many of the watercolours made for Hakewill's Picturesque Tour of Italy (see Wilton, opcit, 1979, nos. 700-717) are now in public collections such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale, the Whitworth Gallery and the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery.