In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 110 x 186 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D14795
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 73

Catalogue entry

Beyond Narni, Turner’s route to Rome continued south towards the crossing of the River Tiber at the Ponte Felice. This sketch depicts Borghetto, a village at the western end of the bridge, which although very small, represented the first urban settlement across the border from Umbria into Lazio. It was an established post stage for travellers on the Via Flaminia between Civita Castellana and Otricoli.1 William Gell described Borghetto in The Topography of Rome and its Vicinity, published 1834, as a ‘little place on the Tyber, not far from the Ponte Felice, with only forty two inhabitants ... There are two or three large houses here in a state of decay’.2 These dilapidated houses can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of this sketch, with the road running in between. In the left-hand foreground meanwhile, Turner has recorded a traveller watering his horse or donkey at a roadside fountain.
The most notable feature at Borghetto was the ruined castle on the slopes of the hill to the west. Today only the crumbling base survives but contemporary illustrations reveal that the fortress still had a tall standing tower reaching above the lower walls until at least the late nineteenth century.3 Turner had made a small pen-and-ink copy of an engraving of the site from John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s Select Views in Italy, see the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13964; Turner Bequest CLXXII 18, second from bottom right). Further views of Borghetto can be found on folios 70 verso–72 verso (D14790–D14794) and folios 73 verso–75 (D14796–D14799).

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

1
The post stage itinerary was published in Reichard’s Italy, London 1818, pp.301 and 330. See Turner’s own copy (Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXVII).
2
William Gell, The Topography of Rome and its Vicinity, revised edition, London 1846, pp.121–2.
3
See for example, ‘Following the Tiber’, Lippincott’s Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, (ed.) John Foster Kirk, February 1875, Vol. 15, No. 86, p.141.

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