Joseph Mallord William Turner

Garden Façade of the Villa Medici, 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 65 a

Catalogue entry

The subject of this inverted sketch is the Villa Medici, a sixteenth-century palace which stands on the Pincian Hill, south of Villa Borghese. Turner’s view depicts the highly decorated façade facing the gardens at the back of the villa. The dome of St Peter’s can be seen in the distance to the right. The villa takes its name from its most famous owners, the powerful Medici family, who created a residence designed to embody their wealth and rank, and to showcase their collection of antique sculpture. It was Ferdinando de’Medici who instructed architect Bartolommeo Ammanti to cover the façade with the elaborate bas-reliefs and statues seen here in the sketch, making the house itself a sort of open-air museum.1 At the beginning of the nineteenth century the villa passed into the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Kingdom of Etruria, and from 1803 it became the home of the French Academy at Rome.2 Many famous French artists lived and worked here over the centuries including Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), who made detailed sketches of the grounds and surrounding views during the years of his first residency between 1806 and 1810.3
A distant view of the Villa Medici from the Borghese Gardens can be found on folio 46 verso (D16237; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 45a) and a sketch of the front of the building is in the Remarks (Italy) sketchbook (Tate D16770; Turner Bequest CXCIII 5).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

1, accessed January 2009.
See Hans Naef, Ingres in Rome, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1971, nos.1–33, pp.3–28.

Read full Catalogue entry

You might like

In the shop