Joseph Mallord William Turner

Grounds of the Villa Borghese, Rome

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 114 x 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16268
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 62

Catalogue entry

Owing to the inscription in the top right-hand corner of folio 63 verso (D16269; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 62a), Cecilia Powell made the logical assumption that the sketches on folios 62–64 (D16267–D16270; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61–63), depict the grounds of the Villa Doria Pamphili on the Janiculum Hill. However, Turner’s annotation probably reads ‘Doric Pillars’ and the subject is actually the Villa Borghese on the Pincian Hill. For a general discussion see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61).
This page contains three distinct sketches of the grounds of the villa. In the bottom left-hand corner is a view of a building and arcade seen through a line of trees, possibly the Orangery (Aranciera, present-day Museo Carlo Bilotti). The sculptural structure in the foreground is a herm, a square pillar bearing the head of a statue. The Borghese Gardens contained many such classical ornaments. Secondly, the sketch in the top left-hand corner is a repetition of the view of the grounds from the previous page, see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61). Meanwhile, the group of trees on the far right-hand side also relates to this landscape. Turner extended the first drawing by pulling back the paper and continuing the composition on the sheet beneath. Cecilia Powell has described Turner’s use of pencil here as ‘chalk-like’ in appearance,1 a technique he often employed when the light was failing and the landscape was transformed by the approach of dusk. Studies of the sky on folio 66 (D16274; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65) reveal that he was indeed sketching in the gardens whilst the sun was setting.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

1
Powell 1984, p.475 note 30.

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