Joseph Mallord William Turner

Grounds of the Villa Borghese, Rome, Looking towards the Villa Guilia


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 61

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 palace and grounds of the Villa Borghese near the Pincian Hill. This sketch depicts a general view looking across the gardens through a screen of stone pine trees, probably from a point near the Casino di Raffaello. Thomas Ashby identified the building in the middle distance on the left as the Villa Guilia.1 Turner continued the composition by pulling back the paper and extending the line of trees on the sheet beneath, see folio 63 (D16268; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 62). He also repeated the same view in the top left-hand corner of the same page.
The Villa Borghese was built during the early seventeenth century for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.2 Flaminio Ponzio (c.1560–1613), the architect who designed the Casino, also laid out the grounds including a series of formal gardens, an area of natural parkland, an aviary (the Uccelliera), and a scattering of statues, fountains and ancient monuments. The park was further transformed during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by the building of a wooded lake garden, landscaped in the English manner with neoclassical features, partly designed by the British artist, Jacob More (c.1740–1793).3 When Turner visited Rome, the villa was owned by Prince Camillo Borghese, who was married to Pauline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon. The gardens were open free of charge to the public and were a popular location for Romans and tourists alike to promenade in their leisure time.4 The banker and poet Samuel Rogers who visited Rome five years before Turner, noted in his journal that he frequently met Napoleon’s brother Louis, King of Holland, when strolling through in the park.5 Other sketches of the grounds can be found on folios 44–46 verso (D16232–D16239; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 43–46a), folio 66 (D16274; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65) and folios 79 verso–82 verso (D16301–D16306; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 78a–81a). See also the Rome and Florence sketchbook (Tate D16523–D16527; Turner Bequest CXCI 21–23).
Thomas Ashby, unpublished notes, Turner Bequest Archive, Tate.
Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.221.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.207–8.
See for example J.R. Hale (ed.), The Italian Journal of Samuel Rogers, London 1956, p.218.
Eustace 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, p.207.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

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