The subject of this study is the Ponte San Rocco, Tivoli, a wooden bridge which had been erected on the broken arch foundations of a stone bridge, previously swept away in a flood in 1808. The crossing spanned the gully between the so-called Temple of Vesta, visible in the top right-hand corner, and the Church of Santa Maria del Ponte, on the opposite side. Turner’s view looks south from a point beneath the ancient temple towards the ‘Grand Cascade’, the former falling point of the River Aniene where it plunged into the Valle d’Inferno (Valley of Hell) to the north-east of the town. Related sketches can be seen in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D14936–D14937 and D15096; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 2a–3 and 88a). Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created highlights within the work by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to describe the waterfall visible beyond the bridge.
The picturesque properties of this prospect had made it a popular subject for artists, and by the early nineteenth century it was a well-established topographical motif. An early example is Gaspar van Wittel’s (1652/3–1736), View of Tivoli circa 1700 (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore), which pictures an artist sketching the view from a point below the Temple of Vesta.1 Similar vistas incorporating the original stone Ponte San Rocco include a drawing and related print by Albert Christophe Dies (1755–1822) published in Vues Pittoresques de l’Italie (circa 1795),2 François-Marius Granet (1775–1849), Ponte San Rocco and Falls, Tivoli circa 1810–20 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Revd William Henry Barnard (1767/9–1818), Tivoli (Tate, T09427). Contemporaneous views, meanwhile, depicting the temporary wooden bridge, include an illustrations in Italian Scenery from drawings made in 1817 by Miss Batty (published 1820),3 and in a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Tivoli 1817 (British School at Rome Library).4
The drawing is reproduced in colour in Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, no.71, p..
[Elizabeth Frances] Batty, Italian Scenery from Drawings Made in 1817 by Miss Batty, London 1820, opposite p.115.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.7, pp.230–1, reproduced.
- townscapes / man-made features(21,691)
- River Aniene(47)