Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Roof-Top View of Bolzano (Bozen), with the Spire of the Cathedral, and the Colle (Kohlern) Mountain to the South-East


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite, watercolour, gouache and pen and ink on paper
Support: 197 × 284 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXIV 295

Catalogue entry

As established by Cecilia Powell,1 this as a view across the roofs of Bolzano (Bozen), the capital of Alto Adige province (otherwise Südtirol or South Tyrol), on the fringes of the Dolomites in northern Italy (then under Austrian rule), where Turner paused on his meandering route south-eastwards towards Venice. Before Powell’s identification, the subject had traditionally been called ‘Meran’ (Merano), without further comment.2 There is an unrelated view of that town, about twenty miles north-west of Bolzano, in the 1840 Rotterdam to Venice sketchbook (Tate D32322; Turner Bequest CCCXX 31a).
A single pencil drawing in the vicinity of Bolzano in the same book (D32318; CCCXX 29a) shows rural wayside crosses labelled ‘Botzen’ (then the conventional English spelling). A page including various small mountain sketches, the only non-Venetian subjects in the contemporary Venice and Botzen book (Tate D31922; Turner Bequest CCCXIII 67), is inscribed in the same way; as discussed there, they were possibly made in retrospect.
While effectively remaining a study, the present work is considerably more detailed than a loose, relatively undeveloped variant, otherwise comparable in its format and media (D32189; Turner Bequest CCCXVII 10). As Powell has observed, they were likely ‘both drawn and coloured in [Turner’s] lodgings, for these provided him with as fine a view of the town itself and the Dolomites as any artist could desire’.3 The north side of Bolzano Cathedral’s steeply pitched roof is shown toward the right, with its single Gothic steeple on the near side. There is no indication of the roof’s current strident black and white diamond pattern.
While there is often evidence in local journals of Turner’s presence at particular hotels on this tour, none is yet known in this instance, but he perhaps stayed at the first mentioned in the 1840 edition of John Murray’s guidebook: the ‘Kaiser Krone [imperial crown], including a theatre and ball-room, excellent’.4 The hotel does not survive, but it is shown on old town plans where a restaurant with a similar name now stands off the Via della Mostra; this would correlate with the alignments here, suggesting a view to the south-south-east beyond the spire, with the Colle (Kohlern) mountain on the left and the open space of the market-place north-east of the cathedral suggested in the middle distance.
See Powell 1995, pp.65–6, 156–7.
Cook and Wedderburn 1904, p.626; Finberg 1909, II, p.1198.
Powell 1995, pp.65–6.
John Murray, A Handbook for Travellers in Southern Germany, London 1840, p.266.
Wilton 1974, p.157; see also p.160.
See Yardley 1983, p.55.
See George 1984, p.10.
Powell 1995, p.157.
See ibid., p.145.
Ibid., p.157.
Finberg 1909, II, p.1207.

Matthew Imms
September 2018

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