Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Porta Galliera, Bologna


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

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 x 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVI 24

Catalogue entry

The inner side of Bologna’s imposing Baroque Porta Galleria is shown from the south-west, marking the northern approach to the city by the road from Ferrara. Cecilia Powell and James Hamilton have both observed how very few sketches Turner made after leaving Venice (folios 21 verso–24 recto; D14528–D14532; also folio 90 verso; D14652; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 86a) until his arrival at Bologna here; see under D14528.1
The gateway now stands in the Piazza XX Settembre, near the ruined section of the city wall shown by Turner, which is a little further off than his drawing might suggest, across the Rampa Maggiore Leopoldo Serra. Presumably because of his low viewpoint, Turner omitted the elements above the heavily rusticated structure’s entablature and segmental pediment, comprising a central pilastered and pedimented attic storey flanked by elaborate pyramidal finials.
The line of the main arch is continued briefly on folio 23 verso opposite (D40896). The pages between here and folio 42 verso (D14532–D14565; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 24–42 verso; see also folios 83 recto and 90 verso; D14641, D14652; CLXXVI 79, 86a) make up an extensive survey of the city of Bologna and its hilly surroundings,2 although a few of the slighter views are difficult to place; folio 28 verso in particular (D14537; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 26c) may represent somewhere else, while folio 37 verso (D14555; Turner Bequest CLXXVI 33a) appears to be labelled ‘Imola’, which lies about twenty miles to the east.
By Turner’s time fewer than a quarter of over a hundred vertiginous towers which had been such a characteristic of medieval Bologna remained,3 shown here among various Renaissance and Baroque buildings; the city walls then enclosing the centre did not survive beyond the turn of the twentieth century, although various other substantial gateways still mark the perimeter.4 Bologna’s extensive arcades or porticoes5 appear in numerous drawings, particularly the remarkable free-standing structure leading out of the city up the hill to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, which Turner also visited.
See Powell 1984, pp.82, 462 notes 62 and 63, and Powell 1987, pp.24, 202 note 39.
See James Hamilton, ‘Turner e l’Italia’ in Hamilton, Nicola Moorby, Christopher Baker and others, Turner e l’Italia, exhibition catalogue, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara 2008, p.43, and James Hamilton, ‘Turner’s Route to Rome’ in Hamilton, Nicola Moorby, Christopher Baker and others, Turner & Italy, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2009, p.42.
See ‘Bologna Towers Tour’, Bologna Welcome, accessed 12 March 2017,
See ‘City Gates’, ibid., accessed 12 March 2017,
See ‘The Porticoes of Bologna’, ibid., accessed 12 March 2017,
Powell 1984, pp.83–4.

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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