Joseph Mallord William Turner

Porto di Ripetta, 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 68

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is the Porto di Ripetta, a busy harbour which stood on the eastern bank of the Tiber near the Palazzo Borghese and the Mausoleum of Augustus. The design of the harbour, built in 1703–7 by Alessandro Specchi, comprised a double bank of steps with a theatrical curvilinear structure. Turner’s view, which continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 68 verso (D16279; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 67a), looks down-river with the Castel Sant’Angelo and St Peter’s on the opposite side. The harbour was demolished in 1889–90 as part of the construction of the Tiber embankments, although the fountain which once overlooked the site can still be seen, in a small garden near the eastern end of the present-day Ponte Cavour.1
The viewpoint and composition of this sketch are the same as that of a lithograph by Philippe Benoist (1813–1905), Rome dans sa grandeur, published in 1865. Compare also Gaspar van Wittel (Vanvitelli), River Tiber from Monte Sant’Angelo, 1685 (Galleria Palatina, Florence),2 and Piranesi’s etching from the Vedute di Roma which shows the port from the opposite bank of the river.3 A further sketch of the port looking up-river can be found on folio 83 (D16307; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 82), whilst a similar view looking down-river can be seen in the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16477; Turner Bequest CXC 61).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

‘Steps Off the Beaten Path: Nineteenth-Century Photographs of Rome and its Environs’: Images from the collection of Dee and Bruce Lundberg, on-line exhibition, American Academy in Rome, nos.34–6,, accessed January 2009.
Reproduced in colour in Marco Bussagli (ed.), Rome: Art and Architecture, Cologne 1999, pp.[616–7].
Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.893, reproduced p.698.

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