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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner View of the Via Appia amidst the Pontine Marshes, with a Roman Cippus 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 12 Verso:
View of the Via Appia amidst the Pontine Marshes, with a Roman Cippus 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 12 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 122 x 197 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘IMP. CAESAR | DIVI NERVÆ FE | NER [?]’ bottom left
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The subject of this sketch is the straight, tree-lined section of the Via Appia known as ‘La Fettuccia’ (‘The Ribbon’), which runs through the Pontine marshes to Terracina. Turner followed this road during his journey south between Rome and Naples. The foreground object on the left-hand side of the view appears to be a square-shaped cippus, an ancient Roman pillar, from which the artist has partially copied the Latin dedication. This is one of a number of monuments commemorating repairs to the Via Appia by Emperors Nerva and Trajan, possibly the one found on the left-hand side of the road just outside Borgo di Faiti.1 Alternatively, it is the same one seen in a sketch of Mesa, a village approximately ten miles north-west of Terracina, see folio 14 verso (D15582). The mountain range visible in the distance to the left is the Monti Lepini (also known as the Volscian Mountains), whilst on the right is the distinctive profile of the promontory of Monte Circeo. The landscape was described by Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published in 1815:
Here commences the famous Pomptine Marshes, and at the same time the excellent road formed through them on the substructions of the Appian by the same pontiff [Pius VI]. This road runs on an exact level, and in a straight line for thirty miles. It is bordered on both sides by a canal, and shaded by double rows of elms and poplars ... When we crossed the Pomptine marshes, fine crops of corn covered the country on our left, and seemed to wave to the very foot of the mountain; while on the right numerous herds of cattle and horses grazed in extensive and luxuriant pastures ... To the south, towers the promontory of Circe [Monte Circeo] on one side, and the shining rock of Anxur on the other; while the Volscian Mountains [also known as Monti Lepini], sweeping from north to south in a bold semicircle, close the view to the east.2
Turner owned a copy of Eustace’s publication and made notes on the relevant pages in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (Tate D13953; Turner Bequest CLXXII 12).
There are several monuments commemorating Nerva and Trajan’s endeavours to be found along this stretch of the Via Appia. John Gage has suggested that Latin text transcribed here was the same one noted by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in his contemporary travel publication, A Classical Tour in Italy and Sicily, published 1819, a copy of which Turner owned.3 However, this inscription in fact belongs to a different cylindrical milliary (milestone) which still stands on one side of the door of the eighteenth-century post-house at Mesa.4 A sketch of this building can be found on folio 13 (D15579). Another cippus at Tor Tre Ponti can also be seen on folio 14 verso (D15582).

Nicola Moorby
April 2010

John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1821, 6th edition, vol.II, pp.292–302.
Gage 1974, p.87 note 53; Sir Richard Colt Hoare, A Classical Tour in Italy and Sicily, London 1819, vol.I, p.98.
See Susanna La Pera Buranelli and Rita Turchetti (eds.), Sulla Via Appia da Roma a Brindisi: le fotografie di Thomas Ashby 1891–1925, Rome 2003, pp.133–4, reproduced fig.75.1. Also http://www.straderomane.it/it/dove/lazio/punti/lazio_G5_02_02.htm.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘View of the Via Appia amidst the Pontine Marshes, with a Roman Cippus 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, April 2010, 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/joseph-mallord-william-turner-view-of-the-via-appia-amidst-the-pontine-marshes-with-a-r1138040, accessed 28 May 2024.