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The sketches on this page represent various views seen from the Via Appia near Minturno, a town on the Tyrrhenian coast between Formia and Capua. Turner’s viewpoint appears to be the remains of the ancient Roman settlement of Minturnae, near the crossing of the Garigliano river. Amidst the identifiable landmarks is the ruined arches of an aqueduct and part of a theatre (still visible today), or an amphitheatre (now almost completely demolished). The modern town can also be seen in the distance silhouetted on a hill against the backdrop of the Arunci mountains.
The landscape in this part of Italy was described by Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy (first published 1813):
The road runs over a fine plain, bordered on the left by distant mountains; and on the right by the sea. About three miles from the Liris (Garigliano) [river] an aqueduct, erected to convey water to Minturnae, passes the road; it is now in ruins, but the remaining arches, at least a hundred, lofty and solid, give a melancholy magnificence to the plain which they seem to bestride. On the banks of the Liris and to the right of the road extend the ruins of Minturnae, spread over a considerable space of ground, exhibiting substructions, arches, gateways, and shattered walls, now utterly forsaken by human inhabitants ... The delay occasioned by the ferry affords the traveller time enough to range over the site and the remains of Minturnae.1
Turner made notes from this section of Eustace’s publication in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13954; Turner Bequest CLXXII 12a). As the passage suggests, the artist seems to have had enough time whilst waiting for the Garigliano ferry to make several swift studies of the nearby Roman remains. Further related sketches can be found on folio 31 (D15615; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 30).
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1821, 6th edition, vol.II, p.318.