Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 32 Verso:
View of the River Arno, Florence, with the Porta San Niccolò and the Ponte alle Grazie 1819
Turner Bequest CXCI 32 a
Turner Bequest CXCI 32 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 113 x 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings of the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol.I, p.568, as ‘Ponte Vecchio, with the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens beyond’.
Cecilia Powell, ‘Turner on Classic Ground: His Visits to Central and Southern Italy and Related Paintings and Drawings’, unpublished Ph.D thesis, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London 1984, pp.205 note 27, 207 note 38, 429, as ‘Florence from the lungarno near Ponte S. Niccolò’.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.92 note 18, 94 note 26.
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
Powell 1987, p.94.
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.
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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