View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Turner explored the area around Lake Albano and made drawings from several different spots. The view in this sketch is from the eastern shore of the lake with the monastery of Palazzola on the right-hand side.1 The town of Castel Gandolfo with the dome of the Church of San Tommaso Villanova is visible on the other side of the water. Above this are two separate sketches which seem to show the dark opening of a cave amidst the hills inscribed by the artist ‘Fountain Grotto Alba’. This location has not been positively identified but one possibility is that it represents the fountain, or source, of the Aqua Ferentenia, a spring which feeds into Lake Albano. A passage in William Gell’s Topography of Rome and its Vicinity, 1846, confirms that there was also a small cave within the rock, a few yards above the fountain.2 Having made notes on the area in the Italian Guidebook Sketchbook (see Tate D13952; Turner Bequest CLXXII 11a) Turner was clearly familiar with Eustace’s description in A Classical Tour Through Italy:
Nothing can be more delightful than the walks around the lake, sometimes approaching the edge of the steep banks and looking down upon the glassy surface extended below, and at other times traversing the thickets and woods that rise all around, and refresh the traveller as he passes under their vast contiguity of shade. Another umbrageous alley, partly through woods, leads to Marino, a very pretty town: the approach to it with the rocky dell, the fountain [the source of the Aqua Ferentina] in the midst, the town on the eminence above, the woods below and on the side of the road, might furnish an excellent subject for a landscape.3
For a full discussion of Turner’s depictions of Lake Albano see folio 3 verso (D15301) and the general introduction to the sketchbook.
See a drawing of a similar view by Charles Joseph Lecointe, see Francesco Petrucci e Susanna Marra, Vedute dei Colli Albani e di Roma dall’album di viaggio di Charles Joseph Lecointe (1824–1886), exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia 2006, no.15, p.33, reproduced.
William Gell, The Topography of Rome and its Vicinity, London 1846, p.90.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.257–8.5