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The subject of this drawing is the Villa Madama, one of the most celebrated examples of Cinquecento architecture in Rome. Built during the early sixteenth century for Cardinal Guilio di Guiliano de’Medici (later Pope Clement VII), the villa was named in honour of a subsequent owner, ‘Madama’ Margaret of Austria, the widow of Duke Alessandro de’Medici.1 Situated on the eastern slopes of Monte Mario, a hill to the north of Rome famous for its panoramic views, the building was designed by Raphael (1483–1520) but was overseen after his death by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1484–1546). The decoration of the loggia was completed by Giovanni da Udine who designed the stuccos, and Giulio Romano (circa 1499–1546) who was responsible for the frescos. Turner’s sketch depicts the northern façade of the villa with the triple arches of the loggia opening onto the gardens in the foreground. In the distance on the left is the River Tiber winding its way downstream towards the city. The prospect is similar to that within Giuseppe Vasi’s print, Secondo Prospetto del Casino di Villa Madama, published in 1761,2 and also Richard Wilson’s oil painting, Rome from the Villa Madama 1753 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven).3 Like many pages within this sketchbook, the drawing has been executed over a washed grey background and Turner has created areas of pale highlights by rubbing through to the white paper beneath.
Turner made a large number of studies of variations of the view from Villa Madama looking east and south towards the river and the centre of Rome. There are several drawings within this sketchbook, see folios 31, 48, 57 and 60 (D16357, D16377, D16388, D16391) and loose sheets (Tate D16342, D16350; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 16, 24), as well as in the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16178–D16181; Turner Bequest 11a–13) and the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16444; Turner Bequest CXC 33 a). Furthermore, a sketch of the southern façade of the villa can be found in the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16182; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 13a). The large number of images suggests that the artist 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 viewpoint of the watercolour is a point just beneath the Villa Madama (see folio 31; D16357).
Christopher Hibbert, Rome: The Biography of a City, London 1985, p.350.
Reproduced David Solkin, Richard Wilson, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1982, no.67, p.184.
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.