Joseph Mallord William Turner

Narni from the North-East, with the Medieval and Roman Bridges


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 66

Catalogue entry

Turner devoted a considerable number of sketches to the Bridge of Augustus (Ponte d’Augusto) at Narni, one of the most famous landmarks in Umbria, see folio 61 verso (D14772). This page depicts part of a view of Narni from the valley to the north-east, with the ruined Roman bridge on the right and the adjacent medieval bridge, destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War, on the left. A similar view can be found on folios 64 verso–65 (D14778–9). The sketch recalls John Chetwode Eustace’s description of the ‘romantic appearance’ of Narni in A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published 1813:
The ancient Roman colony of Narni stands on the summit of a very high and steep hill, whose sides are clothed with olives, and whose base is washed by the Nera. At the foot of the hill we alighted to visit the celebrated bridge of Augustus ... All the piers and one arch still remain ... We were particularly struck with the romantic appearance of Narni. Its walls and towers spread along the uneven summit, sometimes concealed in groves or cypress, ilex and laurel, and sometimes emerging from the shade, and rising above their waving tops; delightful views of the vales, towns, rivers and mountains, opening here and there unexpectedly on the eye; a certain loneliness and silence, even in the streets; the consequence and sad memorial of ages of revolution, disaster, and suffering, are all features pleasing and impressive.1
The skyline of the town includes, from left to right: the distinctive square towers of the fourteenth-century Rocca Albornoz; the church and cloister of San Agostino; and the adjacent towers of the convent of San Bernardo and San Domenico. The sketch continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 65 verso (D14780) and also on folio 67 (D14783), where the artist has folded back the page in order to complete the sketch on the sheet below.

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, vol.I, pp.334–5.

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