View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
After visiting the city of Loreto, Turner’s route took him south-west towards Recanati, a small hill town approximately three miles away. Cecilia Powell has identified this sketch as part of the aqueduct which stretches across the valley between the two locations and which supplied water from the mountains until the eighteenth century. Built by Giovanni Fontana and Carlo Maderno the aqueduct and a series of underground tunnels were installed to service the needs of the large number of pilgrims who travelled to Loreto every year to visit the Shrine of the Holy House. At a point on the present-day Via Archi near a bus stop approximately two miles outside of Loreto, the remains of the aqueduct bearing an inscription commemorating its construction can still be seen today. The full text reads as follows:
PAVLO V PONT MAX QVOD OPTIMI PRINCIPIS PROVIDENTIA AQVA EX | AGRO RECINETENSI PVRISSIMIS EX FONTIBVS OPERE | SVBTERRANEO ET ARCVATO IN VRBEM LAVRETANAM | DVCTA EST | SCIPIO S.R.E. CARD BVRGHESIVS DOMVS LAVRETANAE | PROTECTOR MONVMENTVM POSVIT | AN MDCXX PONTIFIC XVI
The artist has inscribed the first words only, noting that the aqueduct was built during the papacy of Paul V (1552–1621). In the foreground of the sketch are a group of figures are crowded around a fountain beneath the arches. The fountain no longer exists, but as James Hamilton has noted, it would have made a convenient watering place for travellers on the road to or from Loreto.1
Turner registered the existence of the aqueduct in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook as part of his summary of information from Eustace’s A Classical Tour through Italy, 1815 (see Tate D13939; Turner Bequest CLXXII 4a). He also annotated in situ the relevant passage in his copy of Reichard’s Italy, 1818, noting that the surviving structure contained ‘33 arches’ (see Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXVII, p.332). Further sketches can be found on folios 11 verso, 12 verso, 14 verso, 15 verso, 16 verso (D14674, D14676, D14680, D14682 and D14684).