Joseph Mallord William Turner

Casa Cenci, in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 79

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is the Casa Cenci, also known as the Casino Cenci Giustiniani, which stands on present-day Viale Lubin in the gardens of the Villa Borghese.1 This unassuming rustic-style building was a celebrated landmark for artists during the early nineteenth century, owing to the popular belief that it had once been used as a studio by Raphael. See for example Jean-Honoré Marmont de Barmont’s (1770–1846), oil painting, Casa Cenci in the Borghese Gardens, Rome 1805,2 and Johan Christian Dahl (1788–1857), La casa del portinaio a Villa Borghese 1821 (Billedgalleri, Bergen).3 Turner shared the fascination of the period with the great Renaissance master and sketched a number of Roman subjects owing to their supposed Raphael connections, for example, the Casino di Raffaello in the Borghese Gardens, see folio 44 verso (D16233; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 43a), the statue of Jonah in the Chigi Chapel, see folio 48 (D16240; CLXXXVIII 47), and the façade of the Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli, see folio 64 verso (D16271; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 63a). The culmination of his interest was his large oil painting celebrating the tercentenary of the artist’s death, Rome from the Vatican exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).4
The trees on the far left-hand side of the composition relate to the sketch on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 79 verso (D16301; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 78a). For other sketches of the Borghese Gardens and a general discussion see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

See Town and Country Perspectives, Christie’s, London, 4 June 2008, lot 177.
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.286, fig.174.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.

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