Joseph Mallord William Turner

A Country Villa or Farm near Bologna, Possibly the Rocca Isolani at Minerbio, with Plants in the Foreground


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 184 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXVI 23

Catalogue entry

The substantial villa/farmhouse flanked by arcaded outbuildings and a small tower, remains unidentified, but appears typical of such buildings still to be seen along Turner’s route between Venice and Ancona. As the verso and folio 24 recto (D40896, D14532) show the first of numerous views of Bologna, this scene may have been somewhere Turner’s carriage happened to stop on the road from Ferrara, heading south-west.
The Rocca Isolani, a Renaissance villa set back from the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi in Minerbio, about ten miles north-east from Bologna, is a possibility; although Turner’s apparently faithful rendering differs in a number of details, its symmetrical north-west front features a low tower at its left-hand corner, with a low, arcaded wing on the right. For Cecilia Powell’s comments on Turner’s very few sketches after leaving Venice until his arrival at Bologna, see under folio 21 verso (D14528).1
Lurking among the blameless flora in the foreground, carefully if inconspicuously noted, is ‘stramonium’. Instructions for the smoking of the plant are found in the Hastings sketchbook, in use within the previous decade (Tate D07597; Turner Bequest CXI 2a), as David Blayney Brown has noted in his extensive discussion of Turner’s notes: ‘Datura stramonium has medicinal properties but is also a powerful hallucinogenic, with unpredictable or even fatal results for the uninitiated.’
See Powell 1984, pp.82, 462 notes 62 and 63, and Powell 1987, pp.24, 202 note 39.
Technical notes:
There are yellowish stains, which saturate this leaf and the previous one as well as apparently being offset on folio 21 verso (D14528); they fade off at folio 24 recto (D14532).

Matthew Imms
March 2017

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