Joseph Mallord William Turner

Two Sketches in Rome: The Casa dei Crescenzi, also Known as Casa di Pilato; and the Porta Asinaria


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

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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 36

Catalogue entry

The main sketch on this page shows the unusual ruins of the medieval Casa dei Crescenzi, a former tower fortress converted into a mansion during the eleventh century by the powerful Crescenzi family using fragments of Roman remains. The house, which stands near the Ponte Rotto on the present-day Via Luigi Petroselli, is also known as the Cola di Rienzo, or the Casa di Pilato (House of Pilate). This last name refers to the tradition of performing Passion plays within the city from the fifteenth century onwards. Certain streets were thought to resemble the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem and the Casa dei Crescenzi became the stand in for the House of Pontius Pilate where the scenes of Christ’s flagellation, the crown of thorns and the Ecce Homo took place.1
In the top right-hand corner of the page (or top left in portrait format) is a small sketch of the Porta Asinaria (Gate of the Donkeys), a Roman gate flanked by two half oval towers found within the southern stretch of the Aurelian Walls near the Porta San Giovanni and the Cathedral Church of San Giovanni in Laterano. For a related sketch see folio 38 (D15366).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Rodolfo Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, Boston and New York 1892, p.181.

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