Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the River Arno, Florence, with the Porta San Niccolò and the Ponte alle Grazie

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
D16545
Turner Bequest CXCI 32 a

Catalogue entry

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, one of the most popular experiences for English visitors to Florence was to walk along the streets which lined the banks of the River Arno, known as the lungarni.1 Many of Turner’s sketches of the city depict views taken from these riverside thoroughfares. This study represents a prospect from the northern bank near present-day Piazza Piave and Ponte San Niccolò, looking downstream (west) towards Ponte alle Grazie.2 During Turner’s day this historic bridge was punctuated by buildings over the supporting piers, but these were removed during the late nineteenth century and the crossing itself destroyed during the Second World War. The composition spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 33 (D16546), where most of the Ponte alle Grazie can be seen. Visible on this side, however, is the Porta San Niccolò, the easternmost gate of the medieval city walls, partially demolished in 1870 but still characterised by the tall fortified tower (present-day Torre San Niccolò), and, further downstream on the right, the campanile of the Church of San Niccolò Oltrano. Interrupting the flow of the river in front of the gate is a weir, the Pescaia di San Niccolò, whilst stretching across the hill in the background are the city walls and the Forte Belvedere.
A similar view was depicted by the eighteenth-century vedute artist Giuseppe Zocchi (1711–1767), although as Powell has discussed, Turner seems to have been unaware of Zocchi’s work.3

Nicola Moorby
December 2010

1
Powell 1987, p.94.
2
First identified by Powell 1984, p.429, as ‘Florence from the lungarno near Ponte S. Niccolò’. The Ponte San Niccolò was built in 1836–7.
3
See Veduta di una parte di Firenze presa fuori della Porta alla Croce presso al Fiume Arno, reproduced in Vues de Florence et de Toscane d’après Giuseppe Zocchi, exhibition catalogue, Cabinet des Estampes Musée d’Art et d’Historique Genève 1974, as pl.6, L’Arno a La Hauteur de la Pescaia di San Niccolo.

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