Some of the most famous panoramas of Rome could be seen from the heights of Monte Mario, a hill to the north of the city (for a general discussion see Tate D16174; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 9a). This sketch depicts the view looking south from a point near the Villa Madama, a sixteenth-century estate built for the Medici family on the eastern slopes, famous for its garden loggia designed by Raphael. The composition encompasses a sweep of approximately ninety degrees from the Esquiline Hill on the left, to St Peter’s on the right. Identifiable landmarks visible across the horizon include, from left to right: the obelisk of Piazza dell’Esquilino framed by the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore; the long stretch of the Quirinal Palace; the Colosseum; the Capitoline Hill; the Castel Sant’Angelo; San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, with the Aventine Hill beyond; San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum Hill; and on the far right; St Peter’s and the Vatican. Turner recorded the same viewpoint within the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16178–D16181; Turner Bequest 11a–13). He also made several alternative images featuring the view from Monte Mario within this sketchbook, see folios 33, 48, 57 and 60 (D16360, D16377, D16388, D16391) and loose sheets (D16337, D16342, D16350, D16352; CLXXXIX 11, 16, 24, 26).
As Cecilia Powell has discussed, the visual approach of depicting a distant prospect of the city from Monte Mario had a long artistic tradition.1 Turner may have known similar examples by his eighteenth-century landscape predecessors such as Richard Wilson’s Rome from the Villa Madama 1753 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),2 or John Robert Cozens’s, Rome from the Villa Mellini circa 1783–8 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge),3 whilst an example of a contemporaneous view in watercolour is by François Keiserman (1765–1833), Veduta di Roma e della Campagna da Monte Mario 1819 (private collection).4 The large number of detailed studies devoted to the subject within this sketchbook suggests that Turner was seriously exploring the idea as a potential theme for a painting. Indeed, the version on this page eventually provided the compositional basis for Rome, from the Monte Mario circa 1820–1 (private collection),5 one of a number of finished watercolours painted for Turner’s great friend and patron, Walter Fawkes, following the artist’s 1819 Italian tour. The topographical details, including the trees and buildings in the immediate foreground are extremely close to Turner’s original sketch. The artist has even indicated the same plume of smoke rising from the Viale Angelico, between the river and the small villa on the left.
Powell 1987, pp.104–7.
Reproduced David Solkin, Richard Wilson, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1982, no.67, p.184.
Reproduced Powell 1987, fig.116, p.106.
Reproduced in colour in Pier Andrea de Roso e Paolo Emilio Trastulli, La Campania Romana da Hackert a Balla, exhibition catalogue, Museo del Corso, Roma 2001, no.2, p..
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.719. Reproduced in colour in Shanes Joll, Warrell et al 2000, no.52, p.145.
John Ruskin, Catalogue of the Sketches and Drawings by J.M.W. Turner, R.A. Exhibited in Marlborough House in the Year 1857–8, in Cook and Wedderburn (eds.) vol.XIII, p.297.
Alexander J. Finberg, Turner’s Sketches and Drawings, London 1910, p.92.
Peter Bower, Turner’s Papers: A Study of the Manufacture, Selection and Use of his Drawing Papers 1787–1820, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1990, p.120.