Joseph Mallord William Turner

Five Sketches of Lake Albano, Including the Monastery and Tomb at Palazzola


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 × 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 9

Catalogue entry

Turner circled Lake Albano and made sketches from several different points. The subject and viewpoint for the five sketches on this page is the monastery of Palazzola, a medieval church on the eastern perimeter of the lake which had been built upon the ruins of an Roman ancient villa (today it is a retreat and summer residence used by the Venerable English College). In the third sketch from the top, just beneath the monastery, can be seen the semi-pyramidal structure of a large ancient tomb carved into the slopes of the adjacent gardens.1 This sepulchre, which can still be seen today, is decorated with fasces (bundles of rods symbolising power) and probably dates from the second century BC, and may be that of Consul Cornelius Scipio Hispalus.2 It had already been depicted by Piranesi in his Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo 1764,3 and in a coloured aquatint by John Izard Middleton, published in Grecian Remains in Italy: A Description of Cyclopian Walls and of Roman Antiquities, with Topographical and Picturesque Views of Ancient Latium, London 1812.4
The two sketches at the bottom of the page suggest that Turner was working at the end of the day as the light was fading. The small drawing of Castel Gandolfo shows the dark silhouette of the town in shadow, which would be consistent with the sun setting in the west beyond. Meanwhile the sketch of Albano beneath appears to show the sun low in the sky with the reflection on the water below.
For a full discussion of Turner’s depictions of Lake Albano see folio 3 verso (D15301) and the general introduction to the sketchbook.

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

See a drawing of a similar view by Charles Joseph Lecointe, see Francesco Petrucci e Susanna Marra, Vedute dei Colli Albani e di Roma dall’album di viaggio di Charles Joseph Lecointe (1824–1886), exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia 2006, no.15, p.33, reproduced.
Thomas Ashby, The Roman Campagna in Classical Times, 2nd edition, London and New York 1927, p.196. See photograph in Oreste Ferrari, Tea Marintelli, Valerie Scott et al., Thomas Ashby: Un Archeologo Fotografa la Campagna Romana Tra ’800 e’900, Rome 1986, p.167, no.132 fig.3.
Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.563, reproduced p.456.
Reproduced Charles R. Mack and Lyn Robertson (ed), The Roman Remains: John Izard Middleton’s Visual Souvenirs of 1820–1823 with Additional Views in Italy, France and Switzerland, South Carolina 1997, p.39.

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