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The vast size, striking shape and prominent location of the Castel Sant’Angelo, located on the banks of the Tiber near St Peter’s and the Vatican, make the castle one of the most prominent landmarks in Rome. Originally the mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian, the cylindrical building dates from AD 139 but was later converted from a tomb to a fortress, acting as part of the military defences of the city until the end of the nineteenth century. The name derives from a legendary vision of the Archangel Michael who reportedly appeared above the building sheathing his sword as a symbol of the end of a great plague in 590 AD. Since 1753, a massive bronze statue of the angel by the Flemish sculptor Peter Anton Verschaeffelt (1710–1793) has crowned the top, replacing an earlier one in marble by Raffaelo da Montelupo (c.1504/5–c.1566/7). The castle is linked across the Tiber to the centre of the city by the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a bridge built by Hadrian and formerly known as the Pons Aelius.
This sketch depicts the Castel Sant’Angelo and the bridge from the south-west looking up-river. Turner’s viewpoint is similar to that of another, more detailed composition (see Tate D16358; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 32). See also folios 34 verso and 35 (D16215 and D16216; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 33a and 34); Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D14967 and D14973; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 22 and 26a); Rome: C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16336; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 10); and Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16405; Turner Bequest CXC 9). The Castel Sant’Angelo also formed the subject for two vignette watercolour illustrations related to literary projects: Rome, Castle of St. Angelo for Rogers’s Italy, c.1826–7 (see Tate D27677; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 160); and The Castle of St. Angelo for Byron’s Life and Works, c.1832 (Tate, N05243).