Joseph Mallord William Turner

Ponte San Rocco, Tivoli, looking towards the So-Called Temple of Vesta


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 76 a

Catalogue entry

This sketch depicts a view of Tivoli looking north towards the Ponte San Rocco, a wooden crossing erected upon the foundations of a previous stone structure swept away in a flood in 1808. Turner’s location is the western bank of the River Aniene, near the ‘Grand Cascade’, the former falling point where the water tipped over the brink of the gorge immediately in front of the bridge. Visible on the spur of land beyond is the so-called Temple of Vesta, a circular ruin dating from the first century BC, which stands on the edge of the Valle d’Inferno (Valley of Hell) at the north-eastern edge of the town, whilst the bell-tower on the far right-hand side belongs to the Church of Santa Maria del Ponte. Similar compositions can be found on folios 43–4, and 63 verso–64 verso (D15006–D15068 and D15045–D15047), and Turner also recorded the view looking towards the bridge from the opposite direction, see folios 2 verso, 3 and 89 verso (D14936, D14937 and D15096), and in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15494; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 27).
The picturesque position of the Ponte San Rocco made it a popular subject for artists, and by the early nineteenth century it was a well-established topographical motif. The vista in Turner’s sketch is similar to that in paintings by Louis Ducros (1748–1810),1 and in an engraving by Luigi Rossini (1790–1857).2 However, it is no longer possible to find the same vantage point in present-day Tivoli. A devastating flood in 1826 persuaded Pope Gregory XVI to divert the course of the river away from the residential district. Consequently, the town’s many waterfalls, including the Grand Cascade near to the Temple of Vesta, were replaced instead by the great waterfall in the Villa Gregoriana to the north-east of the town. Furthermore, the topography of the town was vastly altered and the wooden Ponte San Rocco was succeeded by the newly-built Ponte Gregoriano.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

See Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissanas et al, Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros 1748–1810, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood 1985, nos.18–20, reproduced.
Reproduced in Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.256.

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