Joseph Mallord William Turner

Narni, from the Valley to the North-East


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 115 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 64 a

Catalogue entry

Turner devoted a considerable number of sketches to the Roman Bridge of Augustus (Ponte d’Augusto) at Narni, one of the most famous landmarks in Umbria, see folio 61 verso (D14772). This partially torn page depicts part of a view of Narni from the valley to the east, with Turner standing at a point very close to the bridge. The sketch, which continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 65 (D14778), 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 on this side of the panorama includes, from left to right: the distinctive square towers of the fourteenth-century Rocca Albornoz; the fortified eastern gate of the town, the Porta Ternana; and the church and cloister of San Agostino. Winding up the hillside through the centre is a road which leads to the northern entry points of the town, the Porta della Pollela and the Porta della Fiera, see folio 63 verso (D14776). A similar view can be found on folio 66 (D14781).

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

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

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