Joseph Mallord William Turner

Valley of the Nar from the Belvedere Superiore at the Cascata delle Marmore


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 110 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVII 46 a

Catalogue entry

At Terni, Turner made a short detour from his route in order to visit the nearby Falls of Terni, or Cascata delle Marmore, an impressive waterfall created by the descent of the River Velino into the valley below. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the falls represented one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy outside of Rome. 1 In 1781, Pope Pius VI built a small stone hut on a projecting spur of rock spur almost level with the brink of the summit to facilitate the viewing experience for the increasing numbers of visitors. This viewpoint was known as the Belvedere Superiore. This sketch, inverted on the page, depicts the prospect looking north-east from the hut away from the Cascata, down into the Valley of the Nar. The town visible on the slopes of the hills to the left is Ferentillo. Other views can be found on folios 45 verso–46 (D14741–2), 50 verso–51 (D14751–2) and 51 verso (D14753). For a full discussion see folio 55 verso (D14760).
The viewpoint, and therefore also the composition of this sketch is identical to that of a drawing by James Hakewill, Valley of the Nar from the Cascade of Terni circa 1817 (British School in Rome Library).2 Hakewill’s drawing provided the basis for a watercolour by Turner, The Valley of the Nar 1818 (private collection), one of two paintings which were not engraved for use in Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy.3 Turner also produced a related watercolour of the waterfall, Cascade at Terni (Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery).4

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

Today the waters are diverted for use in a hydroelectric power plant and so the falls are only ‘turned on’ intermittently for the benefit of tourists, see, accessed November 2008.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.2.54, p.172 reproduced.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.398.
Ibid., no.701.

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