Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Via Appia amidst the Pontine Marshes, with a Roman Cippus

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 122 x 197 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15578
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 12 a

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is the straight, tree-lined section of the Via Appia known as ‘La Fettuccia’ (‘The Ribbon’), which runs through the Pontine marshes to Terracina. Turner followed this road during his journey south between Rome and Naples. The foreground object on the left-hand side of the view appears to be a square-shaped cippus, an ancient Roman pillar, from which the artist has partially copied the Latin dedication. This is one of a number of monuments commemorating repairs to the Via Appia by Emperors Nerva and Trajan, possibly the one found on the left-hand side of the road just outside Borgo di Faiti.1 Alternatively, it is the same one seen in a sketch of Mesa, a village approximately ten miles north-west of Terracina, see folio 14 verso (D15582). The mountain range visible in the distance to the left is the Monti Lepini (also known as the Volscian Mountains), whilst on the right is the distinctive profile of the promontory of Monte Circeo. The landscape was described by Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published in 1815:
Here commences the famous Pomptine Marshes, and at the same time the excellent road formed through them on the substructions of the Appian by the same pontiff [Pius VI]. This road runs on an exact level, and in a straight line for thirty miles. It is bordered on both sides by a canal, and shaded by double rows of elms and poplars ... When we crossed the Pomptine marshes, fine crops of corn covered the country on our left, and seemed to wave to the very foot of the mountain; while on the right numerous herds of cattle and horses grazed in extensive and luxuriant pastures ... To the south, towers the promontory of Circe [Monte Circeo] on one side, and the shining rock of Anxur on the other; while the Volscian Mountains [also known as Monti Lepini], sweeping from north to south in a bold semicircle, close the view to the east.2
Turner owned a copy of Eustace’s publication and made notes on the relevant pages in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13953; Turner Bequest CLXXII 12).

Nicola Moorby
April 2010

2
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1821, 6th edition, vol.II, pp.292–302.
3
Gage 1974, p.87 note 53; Sir Richard Colt Hoare, A Classical Tour in Italy and Sicily, London 1819, vol.I, p.98.
4
See Susanna La Pera Buranelli and Rita Turchetti (eds.), Sulla Via Appia da Roma a Brindisi: le fotografie di Thomas Ashby 1891–1925, Rome 2003, pp.133–4, reproduced fig.75.1. Also http://www.straderomane.it/it/dove/lazio/punti/lazio_G5_02_02.htm.

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