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).
Powell 1991, p.131 no.48.
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