Joseph Mallord William TurnerView of Rome from Villa Madama on Monte Mario 1819

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Artwork details

View of Rome from Villa Madama on Monte Mario
From Rome: Colour Studies Sketchbook
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX
Date 1819
MediumGraphite on paper
Dimensionssupport: 229 x 368 mm
Acquisition Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 48
View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Catalogue entry

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 48 Recto:
View of Rome from Villa Madama on Monte Mario 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 48
Pencil and grey watercolour wash on white wove ‘Valleyfield’ paper, 229 x 368 mm
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 48’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
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 a sweeping view of approximately ninety degrees looking south-east 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 Capitoline Hill; the Castel Sant’Angelo; the Janiculum Hill; and on the far right, the dome of St Peter’s. The building in the right-hand foreground is the Villa Madama, a sixteenth-century estate built for the Medici family on the eastern slopes of the hill. Turner recorded similar viewpoints on folio 57 (D16388) and 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 31, 33 and 60 (D16357, D16360, 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 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, after his return to England he produced Rome, from the Monte Mario circa 1820–1 (private collection),4 one of a number of watercolours painted for Turner’s great friend and patron, Walter Fawkes, following the artist’s 1819 Italian tour. The topographical details of this sketch are close to the finished watercolour although ultimately the precise compositional basis can be found within another view, see folio 31 (D16357). Like many pages within this sketchbook, the drawing has been executed over a washed grey background and Turner has created areas of pale highlights within the sky and landscape by rubbing through to the white paper beneath.
Part of Turner’s interest in the view from Monte Mario may have stemmed from his fascination with the architect of the Villa Madama, the Renaissance master, Raphael (1483–1520). During his sojourn in Rome he sketched a number of subjects affiliated with the great artist: for example, the statue of Jonah in the Chigi Chapel, the façade of the Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli, and the Casino di Raffaello in the Borghese Gardens (see the St Peter’s sketchbook, Tate D16240, D16271 and D16233; Turner Bequest 47, 63a and 43a). He also made at least two more detailed studies of the Villa Madama (see Tate D16352; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 26 and Tate D16182; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 13a). The villa later became the subject of one of Turner’s vignette illustrations to Samuel Rogers’s long poem, Italy, published in 1830 (see Tate D27676; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 159).
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 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.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.719. Reproduced in colour in Eric Shanes, Evelyn Joll, Ian Warrell and others, Turner: The Great Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2000, no.52, p.145.
Blank except for traces of grey watercolour wash; stamped in black ‘CLXXXIX 48’ bottom centre left.

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

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