Turner’s Campo Vaccino Finds New Home at Getty

New Acquisition joins Three Other Works by the Artist in the Museum’s Collection

The J. Paul Getty Museum announced today that it made a successful bid at auction on J.M.W Turner’s masterpiece painting Modern Rome — Campo Vaccino (1838-39). The auction took place at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday, July 7.

One of the greatest paintings by Turner to come on the market, Modern Rome — Campo Vaccino has had only two owners in its 171-year history and was most recently on view at the National Gallery of Scotland where it was on long-term loan. It is in excellent condition, virtually untouched since Turner finished it, and still in the original frame.

Turner’s painting shows a view of Rome from the Capitoline Hill, as if looking from high in the air down upon the Campo Vaccino in the center of Old Rome, revealing the noble ruins surrounding the ancient forum and a number of still-active Baroque churches . In the foreground, the scene is temporarily occupied by a group of contemporary women, their children and goats and a gathering of monks in front of the church of Santi Luca e Martina.

“This acquisition ranks among the greatest in the history of the Getty Museum,” said David Bomford, acting Museum director. “Paintings by Turner rarely come to market and the absolutely flawless condition of this one makes it the work against which all other works by Turner will be judged. This is a major accomplishment for the Getty and will bring great pride to the Museum and to Los Angeles.”

Modern Rome — Campo Vaccino joins three other works by Turner already in the Getty Museum’s collection. One of Turner’s most important historical paintings, Van Tromp, Going about to Please his Masters, Ships a Sea, Getting a Good Wetting, from 1844, was acquired by the Museum in 1993. The Museum also owns two watercolors by the artist: Conway Castle, North Wales, about 1800 (acquired in 1995) and Long Ships Lighthouse, Land’s End, about 1835 (acquired in 1988).

In addition to the Getty’s holdings, Turner is represented in the Los Angeles area by two paintings at The Huntington: the large and magisterial The Grand Canal: Scene – A Street in Venice from around 1837 and the smaller Neapolitan Fisher Girls, Surprised, Bathing by Moonlight. The Huntington also owns several drawings and watercolors by the artist. Turner’s very earliest period is represented at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with Lake Geneva from Montreux, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1810. With the addition of Modern Rome — Campo Vaccino, Los Angeles now has the largest concentration of works by Turner in America outside the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Equally important, the collection of Turners in Los Angeles museums now ranges from early to late, from historicizing subject matter and pure landscape to specific sites.

“Turner is quite simply the greatest British painter of the 19th-century and occupies a unique and pivotal position in the history of art,” notes Scott Schaefer, the Getty Museum’s senior curator of paintings. “He was a master of light and atmosphere who could conjure in even the most modest easel pictures the majesty of the natural world and the vastness of his own imagination. This painting will be a magnificent addition to our galleries.”

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