Thomas Ashby identified the subject of this sketch as a view of Rome looking south from the Church of Trinità dei Monti.1 Turner’s viewpoint is the top of the Spanish Steps, next to the Sallustian obelisk, the base of which is visible on the far left-hand side. Amongst the landmarks in the background can be seen, from left to right: the Quirinal Palace; the church and bell-tower of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte; Capitoline Hill; the dome of Santissimo Nome di Maria; and the Janiculum Hill. For related views see the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16402; Turner Bequest CXC 6a) and the Rome Colour Studies sketchbook (Tate D16331; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 5).
Although it is not known where Turner stayed during his 1819 sojourn in Rome, he may, like many of his fellow countrymen have found accommodation in the area around Piazza di Spagna. This part of the city was dominated by hotels and coffee houses catering to foreign tourists and represented the heart of the English community in Rome, most famously, John Keats (1795–1821) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822) who lived in a house at the base of the Spanish Steps during the winter of 1820–1. Turner certainly knew other fellow tourists who were lodging in the vicinity including Captain Thomas Graham and his wife Maria, who rented a house in Piazza Mignanelli, and Thomas Donaldson, a student from the Royal Academy, who was staying in nearby Via Gregoriana. Their names and addresses can be found written on another sheet within this sketchbook, see folio 82 verso (D15250; Turner Bequest CLXXX 81a).
Thomas Ashby, unpublished notes, Turner Bequest Archive, Tate.