The composition of the sketch is very similar to Turner’s earlier watercolour, Florence from the Chiesa al Monte circa 1818 (private collection),1 engraved and published in James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, 1820.2 Described in Hakewill’s text as ‘the best general view of the city of Florence’, the location has been identified by Cecilia Powell as the Monte alle Croci, a hill to the south-east of the River Arno upon which sit the Churches of San Miniato al Monte and San Salvatore al Monte.3 This has always been a favoured spot for panoramic views across the city, and during the later nineteenth century it was transformed by the construction of the Piazzale Michelangelo. The composition includes the line of the medieval walls leading from the Forte Belvedere to the River Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the Palazzo Vecchio and the silhouette of the Duomo.
Related views can be found on folios 51–52, 62 verso–64, 65 verso (D16571–D16573, D16590–D16593, D16596). The artist later manipulated the topography of these sketches to produce four watercolour versions of a view called Florence, from San Miniato 1827–8.4 In fact, as Powell has discussed, it is not possible to see the Arno and its bridges from the Church of San Miniato, and the more likely location is a position near San Salvatore al Monte.5 Turner has further altered the scene by placing the viewer above an imaginary terrace directly overlooking the exaggerated sweep of the river.6
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.714.
Powell 1987, p.204 note 18.
The four versions are: currently untraced (Wilton 726); in the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry (Wilton no.727); the British Museum (Wilton no.728), reproduced in Powell 1987, colour pl.17; and private collection (Wilton no.729). There is also a related colour beginning (see Tate D25138; Turner Bequest CCLXIII 16).
Powell 1987, pp.93–4.