Joseph Mallord William Turner

Part of the Cascata delle Marmore; and a Distant View of Narni


View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 186 x 110 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 53

Catalogue entry

At Terni, Turner made a short detour from his route in order to visit the nearby Falls, one of the main highlights of the journey between Ancona and Rome. An entirely man-made phenomenon, this impressive waterfall was created by the ancient Romans who diverted the course of the River Velino so that the waters descended into the Nera valley below in three successive stages. The whiteness of the resulting spray led to the popular appellation the ‘Cascata’ or ‘Caduta delle Marmore’ (Falls of Marble). During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the waterfall represented one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy outside of Rome. 1 For a full discussion see folio 55 verso (D14760).
This sketch depicts the first and longest stage of the waterfall where the waters cascade over the edge of the summit in a sheer, straight drop. Turner’s viewpoint was the Belvedere Superiore, a small stone hut built by Pope Pius VI to shelter tourists who wished to witness the exciting spectacle of the falls whilst protected from the elements. This structure, which still exists today, stands on a rocky outcrop near the top of the summit, almost level with the brink. It can be seen in another sketch, see folio 51 (D14752). Turner has used the sketchbook vertically in order to capture an impression of the dramatic height of the spectacle and he has indicated the force and spray of the rushing water sparingly with bold hatched lines and large areas of blank white paper.
A further sketch can be found on folio 52 (D14754).
Turner has also used this page horizontally to draw a small separate landscape sketch of a bridge which he has labelled ‘Narni’, the next town on the Via Flaminia south of Terni. The square-towered building visible in the background is the Rocca, the fourteenth-century castle built by Cardinal Albornoz.

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

Today the waters are diverted for use in a hydroelectric power plant and so the falls are only ‘turned on’ intermittently for the benefit of tourists, see, accessed November 2008.

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