The town of Civita Castellana lies in the Viterbo province of Lazio, approximately seventeen miles south of Narni and thirty miles north of Rome. It is approached from the north via the Ponte Clementino, a bridge built in 1712 which spans the deep gorge above which the town is built. This sketch depicts the view from the northern end of the bridge, looking across the ravine towards the town on the opposite side. The panorama continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 75 verso (D14800). The distinctive building on this side of the panorama is the Forte Sangallo, a Renaissance construction named after the architect Antonio da Sangallo the Elder. This sandstone and brick fortress was built on high ground and is also known as the Rocca dei Borgia, after Rodrigo Borgia, the future Pope Alexander VI, who commissioned the conversion of the existing castle into the imposing fortress. It comprises an octagonal tower or citadel within a pentagonal fortress. In the nineteenth century, the building was used as a prison, earning it the name of the ‘Bastille of the Popes’. For a further sketch see folio 68 verso (D14786).
Perhaps the most famous feature in Civita Castellana was the gorge itself. With its dramatic rock formations and verdant foliage it presented an appealing subject for artists and was most famously depicted by the early French en plein-air artists such as Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld (1758–1846), 1 Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750–1819) and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875).2 Other sketches by Turner related to Civita Castellana can be found on folios 68 verso (D14786), 76 verso–78 (D14802–5) and 79–79 verso (D14807–8).
See Philip Conisbee, Sarah Faunce and Jeremy Strick, In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-Air Painting, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1996, p.141 and Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Parigi and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, p.125.
See Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy, New Haven and London 1991, pp.174–195.