Okay, who wants to get me a $30 million early birthday present? Because I found just the thing: J.M.W. Turner’s last painting of Rome.

J. M. W. Turner’s final painting of Rome, a landscape considered one of the artist’s most breathtaking images, is to be sold at Sotheby’s in London on July 7. […]

Sotheby’s expects the canvas to fetch $18 million to $27 million. “It’s the spectacular fruit of Turner’s two visits to Rome,” said David Moore-Gwyn, senior specialist in early British paintings at Sotheby’s, “showing the strength of color and light that you can only get in Italy.”

Look at the gorgeousness:

'Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino', J.M.W. Turner, 1839

It’s a painting of the Roman Forum between the Capitoline and the Colosseum. At that time, it was still being used as common grazing land for cattle, sheep and goats, which had been its fate since the city population plummeted after the Gothic Wars in the 6th century. That’s why it was known as “Campo Vaccino” (cow field).

The first tentative excavation of the Roman Forum had started just 40 years earlier. Under Napoleon in the early 1800s, there was a push to clear the centuries of debris to reveal the ancient city, but it didn’t go much further than a cleanup operation, so when Turner painted the above masterpiece in 1839, the Forum was still a good 70 years from being fully excavated.

Turner loved Italy. He traveled there 7 times over the decades. His paintings of Rome were widely beloved and highly influential during his lifetime, famed for their characteristic interplay of light and color.

He saw light as the presence of the divine in the world, and he liked to put happy, rustic, cheery type people in the foreground for that earth-heaven contrast. You can see that favored juxtaposition in the above painting where the cattle drovers do their rustic thing up front while the glories of antiquity shimmer all around them in an otherworldly light

So yeah, want.

4 thoughts on “WANT

  1. So beautiful. I love ruins, photographs of ruins, paintings of ruins. (Pathological romanticism, for sure.) I’d like to jump in there and look around…like in that old “Night Gallery” TV show where people get pulled into paintings.

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