Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Tiber and the Ponte Sisto, Rome, from the Villa Barberini


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 39

Catalogue entry

This sketch depicts a view of the River Tiber looking downstream from the Villa Barberini (also known as the Villa Barberini al Gianicolo), a small casino and gardens situated north of the Janiculum Hill, to the immediate south of St Peter’s and the Vatican. The left-hand side of the drawing is dominated by the Baroque façade of the villa, designed by Giovanni Battista Contini (1641–1723). Originally owned by Taddeo Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII, the building was largely destroyed during the siege of Rome in 1849,1 but its appearance is partially recorded in an eighteenth-century engraving by Giuseppe Vasi (1710–1782).2 Two small pavilions, the Casino della Palma, and the Palazetto Vercelli survived and are today part of a larger complex owned by the Jesuits and the Collegio di Propoganda Fide.
The bridge visible in the middle distance of the view is the Ponte Sisto, characterised by its circular ‘occhio’, or eye, through which the river waters run during times of high flooding.3 To the right are buildings on the slopes of the Janiculum Hill and in the background beyond the bridge are the Isola Tiberina and the Aventine Hill. In the far distance is the profile of the Alban mountains looking towards Frascati and Rocca di Papa. Partially coloured related compositions can be found in the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16327 and D16361; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 1 and 34).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Anthony Blunt, Guide to Baroque Rome, London, Toronto, Sydney and New York 1982, p.210.
See, accessed July 2009.
Thomas Ashby, Turner’s Visions of Rome, London and New York 1925, p.24.

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