Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Fontana dell’Acqua Paola and a View of Rome from the Janiculum


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 80

Catalogue entry

Finberg identified the location of this sketch as the Pauline Fountain, or Fontana dell’Acqua Paola, on the eastern side of the Janiculum Hill. The fountain, built in the form of a triumphal arch during the seventeenth century to commemorate the re-opening of an aqueduct built by Trajan, was named after the Borghese Pope, Paul V. Turner has drawn it from an oblique angle on the left-hand side so that it is only just possible to make out the three central arches with the two smaller ones on either side. The water pours from between the arches into one large basin designed in 1690 by Carlo Fontana and enclosed by a decorative rail punctuated around the edge by small posts. The back of the fountain appears in a coloured study in the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16353; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 27). This composition may have had a precedent in the tradition of topographical imaages of Rome. A similar viewpoint appears, for example, in an oil painting by the English artist Thomas Patch (1725–1782), La fontana dell’Acqua Paola al Gianicolo, Roma (Banco di Roma).1
Although not one of the celebrated seven hills of Rome, the high ground of the Janiculum offers sweeping views across the city. On this page Turner depicts the prospect looking north towards the distant dome of St Peter’s, see folio 80 verso (D15449; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 79a). Instead of spreading the panorama across a double-page as was his usual practice, the artist seems here to have drawn the view as discrete sections on the same sheet, one above another. The middle portion with the Castel Sant’Angelo succeeds the right-hand side of the lower sketch, and also leads on to the view at the top with the distant Villa Medici. For a general discussion of other sketches from the Janiculum see folio 39 verso (D15369).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Reproduced in colour in Cesare de Seta, L’Italia del Grand Tour da Montaigne a Goethe, Naples 1996, p.142.

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