Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Muro Torto and the Porta del Popolo from the North of Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 130 x 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 5 a

Catalogue entry

Finberg incorrectly identified the subject of this sketch as ruins on the Esquiline Hill. In fact it is a panoramic view of the Muro Torto [Twisted or Crooked Wall], a section of the Aurelian Walls which stretches across the northern boundary of Rome between the Pincian Hill and the grounds of the Villa Borghese Gardens. The wall was known by the Romans as ‘Murus Ruptus’ [Broken Wall] because a section collapsed shortly after construction and was never rebuilt. It was later said that St Peter himself would defend the gap if Rome was threatened. Turner’s viewpoint is a location in the grounds of the Villa Borghese, perhaps on present-day Viale George Washington, looking south towards the Muro Torto where it turns a corner south towards Porta Pinciana. Visible on the far right-hand side is St Peter’s and just below this can be seen the Porta del Popolo, the traditional entry point to the city for travellers from the north. In Turner’s day the gate was flanked by two square towers but these were demolished in 1879 and replaced with two smaller side arches. Above the gate to the left can be seen the dome and spire of Santa Maria del Popolo, and on the far left-hand side of the view are the towers of the Villa Medici.1
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. The sketch continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 2 (D16401; Turner Bequest CXC 6).

Nicola Moorby
June 2009

Compare for example a drawing by Claude Lorrain looking in the other direction towards the Porta del Popolo and Santa Maria del Popolo, reproduced in Marcel Roethlisberger, The Claude Lorrain Album in the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum of Art, Los Angeles 1971, no.9.

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