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Turner’s location for this view of Rome was the Villa Barberini (also known as the Villa Barberini al Gianicolo), a small Baroque casino situated north of the Janiculum Hill, to the immediate south of St Peter’s and the Vatican. Originally owned by Taddeo Barberini, nephew of Pope Urban VIII, the building was largely destroyed during the siege of Rome in 1849,1 but its appearance is partially recorded in an eighteenth-century engraving by Giuseppe Vasi (1710–1782).2 Two small pavilions, the Casino della Palma, and the Palazetto Vercelli survived and are today part of a larger complex owned by the Jesuits and the Collegio di Propoganda Fide.
During the nineteenth century, the Villa Barberini was set within terraced gardens which offered spectacular views across the city. This sketch depicts the prospect looking east towards the River Tiber and the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini. Turner has loosely recorded the topography of the city in a sweep of approximately ninety degrees from the Castel Sant’Angelo on the left, to San Giovanni in Laterano on the right, which he has annotated above the horizon on the far right as ‘J Lat’. In the middle distance on the left is the Baroque façade of the Villa Barberini itself, designed by Giovanni Battista Contini, and the foreground is dominated by the layout of the gardens. The same arches can be seen in another sketch (see D15368; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 1). Other panoramic studies from the same location can be found within this sketchbook (see D16329, D16333, D16347, D16358, D16361, D16374; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 3, 7, 21, 32, 34, 45a) and there is also a single related sketch in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (see Tate D15368; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 39).
Like many drawings within the Rome C. Studies sketchbook, the composition has been executed in pencil over a washed grey background.