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The town of Narni occupies the crest of a hill approximately seven miles south-west of Terni, and fifty miles north of Rome. As was often the case during Turner’s travels, his mode of travelling did not give him much opportunity to stop and explore the centre of the town. The carriage simply followed a predetermined course in an anti-clockwise direction from east to south-west around the walled perimeter. Consequently Turner’s sketches of Narni only relate to views or subjects visible from the road such as the edges of the town and the Bridge of Augustus in the gorge below.
The inverted sketch on this page depicts the western side of Narni, from a point near the Porta Romana. The tower visible in the centre is the Torre Campanaria, the campanile of the cathedral, whilst in the top right-hand corner is the thirteenth-century castle, the Rocca d’Albornoz. Amidst the hills in the background is the monastery of San Cassiano. The composition recalls James Hakewill’s drawing, The Town of Narni 1817 (British School at Rome Library), which Turner would almost certainly have seen during his work on Hakewill’s Picturesque Views in Italy in the months leading up to his own Italian tour.1 In the foreground on the right Turner has noted the location of a marble tablet which commemorates the building of the mountain road from Narni by Pope Pius VI in 1791. This monument stands on the side of the present-day Via Vittorio Emanuele, the road which leads back to the Via Flaminia and the route to Rome. Turner has transcribed the Latin text from the side of the plaque. A related sketch and inscription can be found on folio 60 (D14769).
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.2.51, p.168 reproduced.