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The busiest and most important port in Rome was the Ripa Grande situated on the western banks of the Tiber between modern-day Ponte Sublicio and Ponte Palatino. Turner’s sketch, drawn from the opposite side of the river, shows the cargo shipping docked in front of the customs house of the port. The tall slender column on the left behind the boats is a lighthouse, constructed on the orders of Pope Pius VII in about 1814–15.1 Much of the Ripa Grande port, including the lighthouse, was destroyed during the 1880s to make way for the modern walls and embankment flood defences. In the distance on the right are the broken arches of the Ponte Rotto and the nearby circular Temple of Hercules the Victor, whilst in the far distance is the Capitoline Hill with the Tower of the Sentarial Palace and, on the right the Torre dei Milize.
Other sketches of the Porto di Ripa Grande can be found within the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16255 and D16258; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 55 and 56a) and the Rome and Florence sketchbook (Tate D16492–D16493; Turner Bequest CXCI 5–5a). Turner also revisited this section of the river during his 1828 sojourn in Rome, see the Rimini to Rome sketchbook (Tate D14839–D14840; CLXXVIII 4a–5). These drawings later formed the basis of a finished oil painting, Rome, from Mount Aventine exhibited 1836 (Earl of Rosebery, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland).2
Jeremiah Donovan, Rome, Ancient and Modern, and its Environs, Oxford 1843. vol.3, p.1019. For an alternative view see two oil paintings by Léon-François–Antoine Fleury (1804–58), reproduced in colour in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, pp.178–9, figs.110 and 111.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.366.