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Turner made several studies of the Villa d’Este, a sixteenth-century villa and formal Renaissance garden built for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (1509–1572), the son of Lucrezia Borgia. This sketch depicts a view from a point above the Fountain of the Dragons, near the central axis of the estate, looking south-west towards the irregular turret-like forms of the Rometta Fountain, a water feature decorated with symbols and models of Rome. Two figures appear to be descending the steps leading down towards the lower terraces. Above the gardens on the left-hand side of the scene is the façade of the casino with the Gran Loggia at the right, whilst the centre of the drawing is dominated by a cluster of cypress trees, reputed to be the largest and oldest in Italy. The viewpoint of the composition is very similar that of a near-contemporaneous drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Tivoli. Villa Estense 1817 (British School at Rome Library), Turner’s collaborator on Picturesque Views in Italy (published 1820).1
For a full discussion of Turner’s sketches of the Villa d’Este see folio 5 verso (D14942).
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.10, reproduced p.235.