Joseph Mallord William Turner

The River Tiber, Rome, with the Fontana dell’Acqua Acetosa and the Ponte Molle


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 39 a

Catalogue entry

This sketch depicts the countryside on the northern outskirts of Rome with the meandering course of the River Tiber. Turner made a number of sketches of this part of the Campagna, possibly inspired by its associations with Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. His viewpoint is from the east looking downstream towards the Ponte Molle, the arches and the tower of which are visible in the centre mid-distance. For a general discussion of this bridge see folio 36 (D16217; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 35). On the banks of a curve in the river to the right is a circular tower, possibly the Torre Lazzaroni, see folio 38 (D16220; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 37). The structure nearest the foreground on the left is the Fontana dell’Acqua Acetosa, a seventeenth-century fountain designed by Andrea Sacchi which still survives today. The waters had an acidic taste (aceto is the Italian word for vinegar) and were believed to be good for the health. An inscription on the fountain states the beneficial nature for the kidneys, the stomach, the spleen, the liver and ‘mille malis’, a thousand other diseases.1 A further study can be found in the Naples. Rome C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16138; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 50).
The panorama is continued on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 41 (D16226; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 40).

Nicola Moorby
September 2008

See Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, pp.230–2.

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