View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Turner entered the archaeological site of Pompeii from the north-west along the Via dei Sepolcri (Street of the Tombs). The first set of ruins he came to therefore was the Villa of Diomedes, an opulent suburban house and garden first excavated during the years 1771–4, which stands on the right-hand side of the road just outside of the main city walls.1 This sketch depicts a view of the colonnaded garden which lies at the back of the complex on a lower level to the house. Turner’s viewpoint is from the upper terrace looking south across the garden towards the distant peaks of Monte Faito, on the Sorrentine peninsula. Visible in the central foreground is the empty basin of a former fountain and the remains of a raised triclinium (a summer dining room), built to face the spectacular sea view to the west (labelled as such on the right of the composition).2
Further north-west on the site today is the Villa dei Misteri (Villa of Mysteries) but this was not discovered until the early twentieth century.
For a similar near-contemporaneous view see C. Weidenmuller, A View of the Villa of Diomedes, from Le case ed i monumenti di Pompei disegnati e descritti, published 1854–96. Reproduced in colour in Roberto Cassanelli, Pier Luigi Ciapparelli, Enrico Colle et al., Houses and Monuments of Pompeii: The Works of Fausto and Felice Niccolini, Los Angeles 1997, pl.86, pp.136–7.