J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Ancona to Rome sketchbook 1819

Turner Bequest CLXXVII
Sketchbook with paper covered boards bound with a red leather spine, and a brass clasp
92 leaves of white wove writing paper, approximate page size 110 x 186 mm
Made by William Allee, Hurstbourne Prior Mill, Hampshire; various pages watermarked ‘Allee 1813’.
Inscribed by the artist in black ink on the front cover (D40928) ‘Ancona to Rome’ along centre top
Inscribed by the artist in black on label ‘5. Ancona to Rome’, formerly on the spine, now detached (Turner Archive Box, Tate)
Inscribed in pencil ‘CLXXVII’ top right. Also numbered in black ink on the cover ‘No.298’ as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and inscribed in black ink ‘91 leaves of pencil sketches | H.S. Trimmer’ and initialled in pencil by Charles Lock Eastlake, ‘C.L.E.’ and by John Prescott Knight ‘J.P.K.’ centre of front cover
Stamped in black ‘CLXXVII’ top right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
One of twenty-three sketchbooks related to Turner’s first Italian tour from August 1819 to January 1820. This book contains numerous swiftly drawn pencil sketches which document the second half of his journey between Venice and Rome. The first part of the route was recorded in Venice to Ancona sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest CLXXVI).
After a sustained period of travel along the east coast from Rimini, Turner turned inland at Ancona and began to follow a south-westerly course towards Rome, starting a new sketchbook at the same time. His route took him through the Marche hill towns of Osimo, Loreto, Recanati and Macerata, before moving into the Apennine Mountains and Umbria. At Foligno he picked up the famous Roman road to the capital, the Via Flaminia, which led to Spoleto, Terni, Narni, Otricoli, Borghetto, Civita Castellana, before turning by way of Nepi to the Via Cassia which brought him finally to the outskirts of Rome. This route was the one recommended by John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy.1 Furthermore, James Hakewill, Turner’s collaborator on the publication A Picturesque Tour of Italy, had advised him to ‘take some mode of travelling gently to Rome, as Perugia, Spoleto, Terni, Narni and Civita Castellana should all be stopped at’ (see Route to Rome sketchbook, Tate D13881; Turner Bequest CLXXI 13).2 Hakewill’s suggested route was from Florence rather than Venice, but all of these places, apart from Perugia, were visited by the artist and recorded within the Ancona to Rome sketchbook.
Since he was highly unlikely to have purchased his own carriage in Italy, Turner’s mode of travel was almost certainly by vetture, a private arrangement undertaken with the owner of a suitable vehicle for a fixed fee which usually included transport, food and accommodation.3 The accepted itinerary of travelling vetturino was to start out early in the day and continue until nightfall, with a long rest in the middle, using the same horses all day to save on posting charges.4 This meant that progress was steady but rather slow, averaging three miles an hour, or around thirty-five miles a day.5 Stopping points would be agreed in advance with the driver and the routes followed were well established, punctuated by regular post stages where it was possible to rest the horses or change them for the next day’s travel. Turner carried with him his own copy of Reichard’s Italy, a practical guidebook which contained timetables of these stages (see Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXVII). According to this publication the itinerary between Ancona and Rome was as follows:6

Camurano3 hours 45
Loretto [sic]13 hours 30
Sambuchetto13 hours
Riguano12 hours 30
Macerata22 hours
Tolentino12 hours 30
Valcimara1 ½4 hours
Ponte alla Trave14 hours
Serravalle15 hours
Casa-Nuova14 hours 45
Foligno14 hours 30
Vene13 hours
Spoleto13 hours
Strettura13 hours
Terni13 hours
Narni12 hours
Otricoli13 hours
Borghetto¾3 hours
Civita Castellana¾2 hours 10
Nepi13 hours 30
Baccano2 hours
La Storta12 hours 45
Rome13 hours
The topographical sketches in the Ancona to Rome sketchbook not only confirm Turner’s route but also provide clues as to how long the journey might have taken him. If completed in one stretch the 172 miles between Ancona and Rome could be covered in just over seventy-four hours.7 However, it was more common for travellers to travel during the day and spend the nights resting at an inn. Generally the slow pace of the carriage meant that it was possible for Turner to sketch the passing scenery as he looked out of the window, and the uncertain lines or alternating orientation of some of the studies in the book represent clear indications of being executed from a moving vehicle.8 His drawings often reflect views he could see directly from the road and on several occasions his sketches of a town miss some of the more famous architectural and artistic landmarks, indicating that the carriage did not stop en route but simply drove straight through.9 There are examples of several small sketches on one page with Turner swiftly executing one after another to keep up with the frequent changes in the passing landscape.10 Alternatively, it may occasionally have been possible to linger briefly at a site of interest, such as the Temple of Clitumnus, before hurrying to catch up with his fellow travellers.11 On the other hand, groups of carefully composed studies highlight locations where the vetturino probably stopped, providing Turner with greater opportunity for sightseeing and more detailed sketching.12 On this basis he seems to have rested, at least for a short time, at Loreto, Foligno, Spoleto, Terni, Narni and Civita Castellana.13 Views of the Cascata delle Marmore (Falls of Terni) also suggest a day’s detour from the route in order to visit the famous waterfall and nearby Lake Piediluco.14 It is likely therefore that Turner reached Rome around five to nine days after leaving Ancona.
During his survey of the Turner Bequest, John Ruskin described the sketchbook as ‘A careless book, with good things here and there.’15 His comments, which in fairness were never intended for posterity, suggest a certain level of disappointment regarding Turner’s summary treatment of some of the subjects within.16 Unlike the range of drawings and watercolours which Turner completed in Venice, Tivoli, Rome and Naples, his visual notes of Le Marche and Umbria are confined to swiftly executed pencil studies, not only lacking colour, but also tonal and creative development. Nevertheless, his experiences on this section of his Italian tour were clearly of great interest and value. The sketchbook includes, for example, a record of his first sighting of Italianate landscape corresponding to Claudian ideals and a lengthy description of the atmospheric qualities of the countryside near Loreto.17 It is also contains more views than that of the Venice to Ancona sketchbook, indicating the artist’s greater engagement with the passing scenery. Compared to the landscape south and east of Rome, at Albano, Nemi, Ariccia or Tivoli, the beauty spots in Umbria had been relatively neglected by painters, and Turner made more sketches of this part of Italy than most eighteenth- or nineteenth-century artists.18 As Cecilia Powell has noted: ‘The sketches he drew in the late summer of 1819 are not remotely equalled in quantity, quality or interest either by those of his return journey in January 1820 or by those of his 1828–9 visit to Italy. They are rivalled only by the sketches which he continued to make in Rome, Naples and Florence during the remainder of 1819.’19 His itinerary incorporated places of interest such as the Temple of Clitumnus, the Cascata delle Marmore, and the Roman Bridge at Narni, already familiar to him through the poetry of Byron, his knowledge of topographical watercolours by John Robert Cozens and John ‘Warwick’ Smith, and his work on Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy. Subjects which would later be worked up into oil paintings referencing the Ancona to Rome sketchbook include The Loretto Necklace 1829 (Tate, N00509)20 and The Ponte delle Torri, Spoleto, (formerly Bridge and Tower) circa 1840–50 (Tate, N02424).21
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.1, pp.36–7.
Wilton 1979 p.139.
See Powell 1987, pp.21–2 and J.R Hale (ed.), The Italian Journal of Samuel Rogers, London 1956, p.77.
Hale 1956, p.77.
Reichard’s Italy, London 1818, p.330. See Turner’s own copy (Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXVII).
See for example inner front cover and folios 2 verso, 3 verso, 6 verso, 9 verso, 11, 12, 16 verso, 22 verso, 26–26 verso, 70 verso–71 verso, 89 verso, 90 verso (D14656, D14658, D14664, D14670, D14675, D14684, D14696, D14703–D14704, D14790–D14792, D14827, D14829).
For example in Macerata, see folios 19 verso–22 (D14690–D14696) and in Nepi, see folios 80 verso–83 verso (D14810–D14816).
For example in the Apennine Mountains, see folios 26–26 verso (D14703–D14704), or between Foligno and the Temple of Clitumnus, see folios 34 verso–36 (D14719–D14722).
See folios 36 verso–38 (D14723–D14726).
See Loreto, folios 11 and 12–14 (D14673 and D14675–D14679; Foligno, folios 33 verso–34 (D14717–D14718); Spoleto, folios 38 verso–43 (D14727–D14726); ?Terni, folios 44 verso–45 (D14739–D14740); Narni, folios 58 verso–70 (D14766–D14789); Civita Castellana, folios 75 verso–79 verso (D14800–D14008).
James Hamilton, Turner e l’Italia, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 2008, p.42.
See folios 45 verso–57 (D14741–D14763).
On the sketchbook wrapper, see A.J. Finberg, A Complete Inventory of the Drawings in the Turner Bequest, London 1909, vol. I, p.520.
Finberg records how Ruskin later described his phrasing in a letter to Ralph Nicholson Wornum as ‘horrible’, adding ‘I never meant it to be permanent’, see ibid., p.xi.
See inner front cover (D40929) and folio 6 (D14663).
Powell 1987, p.34.
Ibid., p.35.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.331. See also the engraving (Tate, T06332), W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1908, no.722.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.518.

Nicola Moorby
November 2008

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How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Ancona to Rome sketchbook 1819’, sketchbook, November 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/ancona-to-rome-sketchbook-r1138812, accessed 17 June 2024.