Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Tiber and the Ponte Sisto, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 51 a

Catalogue entry

This sketch of the River Tiber shows the view looking upstream towards the Ponte Sisto, recognisable by the circular ‘eye’ in the centre of the bridge. During the nineteenth century this feature served as a flood warning to the people of the city. When the level of the waters reached the hole it was time to evacuate low-lying areas prone to flooding. The problem was finally addressed by the building of the Lungotevere and the embankment at the end of the century, a project which necessitated the demolition of many of the buildings lining the banks of the river seen here.
Turner’s viewpoint is probably a position near the northernmost tip of the Isola Tiberina, the island linked by bridges to the Trastevere and Jewish districts of the city. On the left it is possible to see the trees crowning the ridge of high ground known as the Janiculum Hill and on the right is the dome of St Peter’s basilica. A similar view can be found in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15438; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 73a).
The sketch is inverted on the page.

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

Read full Catalogue entry

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