Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Confluence of the Tiber and Aniene Rivers with the Torre Salaria, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 130 × 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 45

Catalogue entry

By the nineteenth century, exploration of the city’s environs had become as much part of the Roman experience as its architecture and monuments. Many of the views within this sketchbook appear to relate to a single perambulation through an area to the north of the city, from Sant’Agnese fuori le mura to Ponte Sant’Angelo, by way of the Ponte Molle (for further information see the sketchbook introduction). This sketch depicts the countryside on the northern outskirts where the meandering course of the River Tiber meets its tributary, the Aniene. Turner’s viewpoint is from the eastern bank of the Tiber looking across the curving bend of the great river which dominates the foreground. On the right-hand side of the composition the smaller Aniene winds away into the distance towards the Ponte Salario, an ancient crossing which carried the Via Salaria (Salt Road) away to the north. In the middle distance on the left is a watch-tower, sometimes known as the Torre Salaria, described by Thomas Ashby as ‘a large tomb of tufa concrete ... with a chamber in the form of Greek cross and a medieval tower above’.1 The bridge was destroyed in 1867 by Papal and French troops defending Rome against Giuseppe Garibaldi but the tower still survives today. For further sketches see the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16122, D16125 and D16126; Turner Bequest 34, 37 and 38).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created areas of pale highlights by lifting or rubbing through to the white paper beneath, principally to delineate the rivers, and to describe cloud forms in the sky and the suggestion of snow on the top of the distant line of mountains. Small written annotations noting colour and atmospheric effects add a further level of detail.
Thomas Ashby, The Roman Campagna in Classical Times, 1927, quoted in Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, pp.233–4.
Blank except for traces of grey watercolour
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘775’ bottom left and by unknown hands in pencil ‘775’ and ‘CXC’ bottom left

Nicola Moorby
June 2009

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