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The blank foreground of this sketch, broken only by a single curved line, indicates the oval basin of Lake Albano. Turner must have been standing on the eastern side of the lake looking towards Castel Gandolfo and the dome of the Church of San Tommaso di Villanova, designed by Bernini. Despite the schematic nature of the sketch, the artist has effectively captured the still, smooth expanse of deep blue water and the steep sides of the volcanic crater. The view continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 4 (D15302).
Lake Albano was a popular subject for artists during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and Turner would have been particularly familiar with representations of it by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797) whose watercolours he studied in his youth (see the general introduction to the sketchbook).1 It also appears as one of the notational pen-and-ink sketches after John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831) which Turner copied into the Italian Guide Book sketchbook prior to embarking on his first trip to Italy (see Tate D13968; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 20, third from top right). During his 1819 travels he made two sequences of swift outline studies recording the topography of the lake, particularly focusing on the distinctive outline of Castel Gandolfo on the western shore, see folios 4–9, 10–15 and 16–17 (D15302–D15311, D15313–D15321, D15322–D15325) and the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15558–D15559, D15561–D15563; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 2a–3, 4–5). These drawings later formed the basis for a large watercolour composition Lake Albano circa 1828 (private collection), commissioned for Charles Heath’s unrealised scheme for Picturesque Views in Italy but ultimately engraved for publication in The Keepsake 1829.2 Cecilia Powell has pointed out that Turner’s watercolour closely recalls a painting by Claude of the same subject, Pastoral Landscape with a View of Lake Albano and Castel Gandolfo 1639 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), a work which Turner viewed in the Barberini collection in Rome and made notes on in the Remarks (Italy) sketchbook (see Tate D16848 and D16869–D16870; Turner Bequest CXCIII 80 and CXCIII 95a–6).3
For example Lake Albano, after John Robert Cozens circa 1795–7 (British Museum) and Lake Albano circa 1794–7 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).
Wilton 1979, no.731; reproduced in colour in Cecilia Powell, Italy in the Age of Turner: “The Garden of the World”, exhibition catalogue, Dulwich Picture Gallery 1998, p.46, fig.14; see also W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1913, vol.II, no.320 (see Tate T04614 and T04615).
Powell, Turner Studies, 1984, p.23, and Powell 1987, p.89.