Although the subject of this unfinished watercolour sketch remains uncertain, it bears a strong resemblance to another vignette study, which Turner inscribed with the words ‘Raff. Villa’, a likely reference to the Villa Madama (see Tate D27652; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 135). Both studies share the same fiery palette and depict a square-towered building, trees, and a distant, domed structure, which might possibly be St Peter’s in Rome. The studies are painted on off-white board and may have been cut or torn from the same sheet.
Owing to the Italianate theme of the vignette, Jan Piggott has previously linked this work with Turner’s series of illustrations for Rogers’ Italy (1830).1 However, it is difficult to securely link it to the artist’s finished vignette illustration of the Villa Madama (see Tate D27676; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 159). In contrast to the composite landscapes and sunset skies of the studies, Turner’s completed Villa Madama presents a close-up view of the villa, dramatically lit by a full moon. Nor are the loose brushstrokes and sprawling composition of this sketch a common feature of Turner’s Rogers’ studies, which tend to be spare and are often contained within a tight rectangular format. Instead the work bears a closer resemblance to a number of Continental landscape views which appear to date from circa 1832–42 (see Tate D27540; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 23).
The left-hand edge and corner of the study have been marked with pencil lines and there is also a line of purple watercolour along the left-hand edge of the sheet. The study is similar in style and colouring to another study on the recto of the sheet (see Tate D27541, Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24).
Piggott 1993, p.95.