Press release

JMW Turner’s final masterpiece of the Eternal City, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino, under threat of permanent export

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed a temporary export bar on a highly significant Turner masterpiece.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This will provide a last chance to raise the money to keep the painting in the United Kingdom. 

The Minister’s ruling follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

The Committee has judged the painting to be of outstanding aesthetic importance, closely connected with the UK’s heritage and culture.

The Committee awarded a starred rating to the painting meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise enough money to keep it in the country.

Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino, was Turner’s culminating image of Rome, the last work to emerge from his long fascination with the city. The painting, which depicts a panorama of the Eternal City from the Capitoline Hill, across the Forum and into the distance, was painted in 1839, a decade after Turner returned to England from his second and last visit to the city. From the shimmering mist enveloping the city, temples, churches and monuments come into view, revealing a magisterial panorama of the city through a dazzling rendering of Italian light and atmosphere.

This highly significant painting, in excellent condition, has only been in two private collections since it was painted, and until recently was on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland, where it played a vital part in the displays of Romantic and 19th century painting.   

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: 

If one needed evidence of Turner’s greatness as an artist, this is it. Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino is an astonishingly beautiful painting that underlines Turner’s thoughts and experiences of Rome, and in turn it has played a fundamental part in forming our perception of Turner and his work. Whilst this country holds a good part of the artist’s oeuvre, there are very few of his paintings in this country of this quality and in such fine condition. In addition in a single painting it sums up Northern Europe’s centuries old attitude towards the Mediterranean and the Classical World and its seduction by them.

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred for a period ending on 2 February 2011 inclusive. This period may be extended until 2 August 2011 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the painting at the recommended price of £29,721,250 [excluding VAT (£30,284,968.75 including VAT)] is expressed.

Offers from public bodies for less than the recommended price through the private treaty sale arrangements, where appropriate, may also be considered by the Culture Minister.  Such purchases frequently offer substantial financial benefit to both parties by the sharing of tax advantages.

Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the painting should contact the owner’s agent through: 

The Secretary
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
Grosvenor House
14 Bennetts Hill
B2 5RS

Telephone: 0121 345 7428

Notes to Editors

  1. For all media enquiries please contact Senior Media Relations Adviser,  Sunita Sharma, on 020 7273 8299, email:
  2. For enquiries on the operation of and casework arising from the work of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) please contact Sean BC Farran, RCEWA Secretary, on 0121 345 7428, email
  3. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest is an independent body, serviced by MLA, which advises the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on whether a cultural object, intended for export, is of national importance under specified criteria. Where the Committee finds that an object meets one or more of the criteria, it will normally recommend that the decision on the export licence application should be deferred for a specified period. An offer may then be made from within the United Kingdom at or above the fair market price.
  4. The Reviewing Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the painting is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune; is of outstanding aesthetic importance, and of outstanding significance for the study of Turner, the British enthusiasm for Italy in general and Rome in particular, and the relationship between painting and poetry explored by Turner and the Romantic generation.
  5. Paired with the artist’s Ancient Rome; Agrippina Landing with the Ashes of Germanicus (Tate, Turner Bequest), Modern Rome was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1839 accompanied by a slightly altered quotation from the fourth canto of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

The moon is up, yet it is not night,
The sun divides the day with her.

Byron was Turner’s favourite modern poet, whose words seemed to compliment his pictures and from whom he often took epigraphs. While responding to the dualism of mood implied by Byron’s lines, Turner’s changes from the original line ‘sunset divides the sky…’ to ‘sun’ and ‘day’  times the picture to morning rather than evening, suggesting rebirth rather than decline.
6. The details of the painting are:

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino 1839
Oil on canvas
35 ½ x 48 in (90.2 x 122 cm)


Hugh A. J Munro of Novar, (c. 1797-1864), acquired from the artist at the Royal
Academy exhibition in 1839;
By family descent until sold; “The Novar Collection Formed by that distinguished
amateur, the late Hugh A.J. Munro, Esq. The intimate friend and Executor of JMW
Turner, RA.,” Christie’s, London, 6th April 1878, lot 99 (bt. Davis on behalf of Archibald,
5th Earl of Rosebery and his new wife Hannah, nee Rothschild for 4,450 gns.);
Archibald, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929), Prime Minister (1894-5) and thence by descent,
Sotheby’s, London, 7 July 2010, Lot 57.


London, Royal Academy, 1839, no. 70;
London, Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1896, no. 8;
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, JMW Turner RA, 1953, no. 91;
London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Byron, 1974, no. S39;
London, Tate Gallery and Royal Academy, Turner, 1974-75, no. 517;
London, Tate Gallery, Turner and Byron, 1992, no. 37;
Bristol, City Museum and Art Gallery, Imagining Rome, 1996, no. 11;
Essen, Museum Folkwang, William Turner, Licht und Faber, 2001, no. 194;
Washington, National Gallery of Art, JMW Turner, 2007-8, no. 118;
Ferrara, Edinburgh and Budapest, Turner and Italy, 2009-2010, no. 94;
Edinburgh, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland since 1978 (apart from the
exhibitions mentioned above).

LITERATURE J. Burnet and P Cunningham, Turner and His Works, London 1852, pp. 29, 118 no.
W. Thornbury, The Life of JMW Turner, RA, London 1862, Vol. I, p. 232, Vol. II, p. 400;
W. Frost ARA, A Complete Catalogue of Paintings in the collection of the late HAJ
Munro Esq of Novar, privately printed 1865, p. 95, no. 135;
W. Thornbury, The Life of JMW Turner RA, London 1877, pp. 105, 579;
P. G. Hamerton, The Life of JMW Turner RA, Philadelphia 1879, p. 279;
C. F. Bell, A List of the Works contributed to Public Exhibitions by JMW Turner, London 1901, pp. 130, 236-7, no. 201 (also under 214);
Sir W. Armstrong, Turner, London 1902, pp. 121, 228;
A.J. Finberg, The Life of JMW Turner, London 1961, pp. 373, 502, no. 484;
J. Rothenstein and M. Butlin, Turner, London 1964, pp. 12, 56;
J. Gage, ‘Turner’s Academic Friendships: CL Eastlake’ Burlington Magazine, Vol. CX, London 1968, p. 682;
L. Herrman, Turner: Paintings, Watercolours, Prints and Drawings, Oxford 1975, p. 47;
M. Butlin and E. Joll, The Paintings of JMW Turner, New Haven 1977, Text Vol., pp. 366, 378-379, Plates Vol., pl. 355;
A. Wilton, JMW Turner, London 1979, p. 284, no. P.379;
W. Vaughan, ‘Landscape and the Irony of Nature,’ Art History, Vol. II, London 1979, pp. 471-2;
M. Kitson, ‘Turner and Claude’ Turner Studies, Vol. II, London 1983, pp. 10.14;
E. Joll and M. Butlin, L’Opera Completa di Turner, Milan 1982, no. 440;
M. Butlin and E. Joll, Paintings of JMW Turner, New Haven 1984, Text Vol., p. 232, no. 379, Plates Vol., pl. 383;
J. Gage, JMW Turner, A Wonderful Range of Mind, New Haven 1987, fig 36, pp. 56, 58;
K. Nicholson, Turner’s Classical Landscape: Myth and Meaning, Princeton1990, pp. 119-123;
J. Egerton, Making and Meaning, Turner The Fighting Temeraire, London 1995, pp. 80, 84;
J. Egerton, The British School, London 1998, p. 312;
C. Baker, Turner’s Italy, Edinburgh 2009, pp. 21-24, pl. 15.
7. Further details about the painting can be found in the auction catalogue on the Sothebys website.

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Published 3 November 2010