The subject of this study is a view of the gardens of the Villa Borghese in Rome with the Muro Torto [Crooked or Twisted Wall], the wall which runs along the western perimeter of the park, between the Porta del Popolo and the Porta Pinciana. Turner’s drawing looks south-east towards the Casino di Raffaello [Casino of Raphael], a small summer-house, so called owing to the ‘school of Raphael’ frescoes which adorned the interior. Also variously known over the decades as the Villetta Doria, the Casino Olgiati, or the Casino Bevilacqua e Nelli, after its changing owners, the building stood in the Galoppatoio area of the Borghese Gardens but was completely destroyed during the siege of Rome in 1849.1 The frescoes, which had fortuituously been removed in 1836, can today be seen in the Galleria Borghese.2A detailed description of its appearance was recorded by Charlotte Eaton in her book, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, first published in 1820:
Since I have been in Rome, many are the visits I have paid to the Casino of Raphael, which was the chosen scene of his retirement, and adorned by his genius. It is about half a mile from the Porta del Popolo. The first wooden gate in the lane, on the right of the entrance into the grounds of the Villa Borghese, leads you into a vineyard, which you cross to the Casino di Raffaello; for it still bears his name, though it now belongs to Signore Nelli. It is unfurnished, except with casks of wine, and uninhabited except by a Contadina, who shows it to strangers. We passed through two rooms, painted by his scholars; the third, which was his bedroom, is entirely adorned with the work of his own hands. It is a small pleasant apartment, looking out on a little green lawn, fenced in with wood irregularly planted. The walls are covered with arabesques, in various whimsical and beautiful designs, – such as the sports of children; Loves balancing themselves on poles, or mounted on horseback, full of glee and mirth; Fauns and Satyrs; Mercury and Minerva; flowers and curling tendrils, and every beautiful composition that could suggest itself to a mind of taste, or a classic imagination, in its most sportive mood. It is impossible to describe to you the spirit of these designs. The cornice is supported by painted Carayatides. The coved roof is adorned with four medallions, containing portraits of his mistress, La Fornarina – it seemed as if he took pleasure in multiplying that beloved object, so that wherever his eyes turned her image might meet him. There are three other paintings ... The last, and best, of these paintings represents the nuptials of Alexander the Great, and Roxana ... in general he painted for others, – here he painted for himself – and it is interesting to see those sports of his mind, and to trace the fond delight with which he amused his leisure hours in decorating his home, the scene of his pleasures.3
Beata di Gaddo, Villa Borghese: Il Giardino e le Architetture, Rome 1985, p.188 note 23.
Paola della Pergola, Cataloghi dei Musei e Gallerie d’Italia: Galleria Borghese: I Dipinti, vol.II, Rome 1959, nos.180–2, reproduced.
Charlotte Anne Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, vol.III, 2nd edition, Edinburgh 1822, pp.102–4.
See Hans Naef, Ingres in Rome, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1971, pp.3 and 17, nos.1 and 21, reproduced.
Reproduced in Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy, New Haven and London 1991, p., fig.221.
See Alberta Campitelli (ed.), Villa Borghese: I principi, le arti, la città dal Settecento all’Ottocento, exhibition catalogue, Villa Poniatowski, Rome 2003, no.81, reproduced.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.93.
See the on-line collection of the British Museum, http://www
.britishmuseum, accessed October 2009. .org /research /search_the_collection_database /search_object_image .aspx
See Raphael's residence in the Campagna di Roma in a letter dated 27 March 1827, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 04/1633, see http://www
.racollection, accessed February 2009. .org .uk /
Reproduced in colour in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, p.240, fig.146.