Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Porto di Ripa Grande, Rome, Looking towards the Ponte Rotto

1819

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

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 113 x 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16493
Turner Bequest CXCI 5 a

Catalogue entry

Turner made a large number of drawings with the River Tiber as the central focus. This sketch shows the view looking upstream from the eastern bank at the foot of the Aventine Hill. On the opposite side of the river is the Porto di Ripa Grande, the busiest and most important port in Rome, situated between modern day Ponte Sublicio and Ponte Palatino. The tall column by the edge of the water is a lighthouse, constructed on the orders of Pope Pius VII in about 1814–15.1 The port was demolished during 1888 to make way for modern walls and embankment flood defences.2 Other identifiable landmarks in sketch include the ruined arches of the Ponte Rotto in the centre, the circular Temple of Hercules Victor (sometimes called the Temple of Vesta or Temple of the Sun), with the rectangular Temple of Portunus behind (described erroneously during Turner’s day as the Temple of Fortuna Virilis), and the Capitoline Hill with the Tower of the Senatorial Palace on the horizon to the right.
A similar view can be seen on folio 4 verso (D16491) and in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15373; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 41a), whilst the view looking downstream can be found on folio 5 (D16492). For other sketches of the Porto di Ripa Grande see 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

Nicola Moorby
February 2009

1
Jeremiah Donovan, Rome, Ancient and Modern, and its Environs, Oxford 1843. vol.3, p.1019.
2
Federica D’Orazio, Rome Then and Now, London 2004, pp.122–3.
3
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.366.

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