Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ponte Rotto, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 52 a

Catalogue entry

This view depicts the Ponte Rotto (formerly the Pons Aemilius), an ancient ruined stone bridge at the southernmost tip of the Isola Tiberina. Today there is just one isolated arch remaining in the centre of the river near the late nineteenth-century iron bridge, the Ponte Palatino. However, in Turner’s day there were three linked to the western bank and the sketch is taken from this end. The structure was originally damaged by a flood in 1598 which swept away the eastern pillars, hence its name which literally translates as ‘Broken Bridge’.1
The cluster of buildings visible on the left-hand side of sketch were located in the Trastevere district of the city and include a flight of steps leading down to the river and on the far left, the Church of San Salvatore de Pede Pontis. They can clearly be seen in drawings by James Hakewill (1778–1843), View of the Tibur and the ‘Ponte San Bartolomeo, anciently Pons Cestius’, from the Ponte Rotto 1817 (British School at Rome Library) and the Dutch painter Jan Asselijn (after 1610–52), Ponte Rotto in Rome 1635–45 (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). Everything seen here was demolished at the end of the nineteenth century during the construction of the Lungotevere and embankment.
On the opposite bank, the tower visible on the far right-hand side belongs to the Palazzo Senatorio (Senatorial Palace) on the Capitoline Hill. The drawing continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread with the Casa dei Crescenzi, see folio 54 (D16257; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 56). For other sketches of the Ponte Rotto see the Rome and Florence sketchbook (Tate D16490; Turner Bequest CXCI 4) and the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15376; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 43).

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.90.

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