Joseph Mallord William Turner

Spoleto, from the Road to Rome, with San Pietro on the Right


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 43

Catalogue entry

The Umbrian town of Spoleto lies thirteen miles from Foligno, approximately half-way on the nineteenth-century route between Ancona and Rome. As was often the case during this tour, the progress of the carriage did not give the artist much opportunity to stop and explore the centre of the town. He simply followed a predetermined course around the perimeter of the town and consequently his sketches only depict views he could see from the road. His journey continued south on the Via Flaminia towards Terni and Rome but shortly after leaving Spoleto he was able to look back and draw this panoramic view of the town with the Rocca Albornoziana and the Ponte delle Torri. With typical economy he has neglected to fully delineate the tall arches of the medieval aqueduct but has only outlined the curved tops. On the slopes of the hill on the far right-hand side is the Romanesque façade of the Church of San Pietro. The drawing continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 42 verso (D14735). A similar composition can also be found on folios 39 verso–40 (D14729–30).
Spoleto’s dramatic location within the foothills of the Apennines, combined with its impressive architectural features such as the castle and the aqueduct, made the town an obvious picturesque subject for artists, and the road to Rome from the south was a popular vantage point from which to survey the topography. Turner had probably seen James Hakewill’s drawing, The City of Spoleto 1817 (British School at Rome Library) which adopts a similar composition.1 He had also made a small pen-and-ink copy in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook, of a view of the castle from John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s Select Views in Italy (see Tate D13964; Turner Bequest CLXXII 18, second from top right).

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

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.2.46, p.163 reproduced.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop