Joseph Mallord William Turner

The North Face of the Porta Nigra, Trier


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 100 × 163 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCXC 41

Catalogue entry

Here Turner depicts the north face of the Porta Nigra (Black Gate) in Trier. Built between 186 and 200 AD in grey sandstone with iron clamps and molten lead, the Porta served as the north gate in a network of four ancient Romans city gates. From the eleventh century onwards it accommodated two churches, acquiring, as Cecilia Powell writes, ‘numerous accretions and embellishments’ which had, by Turner’s visit, been all but removed under the Napoleonic regime.1 This sketch is the basis of a gouache and watercolour drawing in which the artist has rendered its stern and impregnable architecture in gloomy tones of grey (Tate D20230; Turner Bequest CCXX W).
See also the Portra Nigra in the Trèves and Rhine sketchbook of 1824 (Tate D20141–D20142; Turner Bequest CCXVIII 3–4).

Alice Rylance-Watson
July 2013

Powell 1991, p.131 no.48.

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