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Turner made a large number of drawings with the River Tiber as the central focus. This sketch shows the view looking downstream from the eastern bank at the foot of the Aventine Hill. The collection of boats on the opposite side of the river are docked at the Porto di Ripa Grande, the busiest and most important port in Rome, situated between modern day Ponte Sublicio and Ponte Palatino. The small building nearest the water’s edge is the custom’s house, whilst the large building behind is the Ospizio di San Michele (Hospital of St Michael). The port was demolished during 1888 to make way for modern walls and embankment flood defences.1 The ridge of high ground in the background is the southern tip of the Janiculum Hill. Giuseppe Vasi published a comparable view as part of the engraved series, Sulle Magnificenze di Roma Antica e Moderna in 1754.2
A more detailed view of the Porto di Ripa Grande can be seen on folio 5 verso (D16293). For other sketches see also the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15373; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 41a) and the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16255 and D16258; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 55 and 56a). Turner also revisited this part 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).3
Federica D’Orazio, Rome Then and Now, London 2004, pp.122–3.
See Porto di Ripa Grande from Book V, I Ponti e gli edifici sul Tevere [Bridges and Buildings on the Tiber], http://www
.romeartlover, accessed February 2009. .it /Vasi97 .htm
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.366.