Finberg noted the subject established while this ‘colour beginning’ was exhibited in one of the touring Loan Collections selected from the Turner Bequest during the late nineteenth century, calling it ‘Lake Nemi’.1 Turner had visited the volcanic lake, about twenty miles south of Rome, recording it in pencil in his 1819 Vatican Fragments, Albano, Nemi, Rome, and Gandolfo to Naples sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXX, CLXXXII, CLXXXIV; see Nicola Moorby’s entries in the ‘First Italian Tour 1819–20’ section of this catalogue). Turner was already familiar with the setting, having made a watercolour of the Lake of Nemi (private collection),2 engraved in 1819 for James Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy (Tate impression: T06023; see Moorby’s 1819–20 Introduction). The composition of the present work is similar to that of an oil study of about 1827–8 also known as Lake Nemi (Tate N03027).3
However, following Eric Shanes’s lead, the consensus is that the scene here is Lake Albano,4 another volcanic lake about twelve miles south-east of Rome, and relates to a finished watercolour of about 1828 (private collection).5 The site is again represented extensively in the 1819 Albano, Nemi, Rome, and Gandolfo to Naples books. Along with many watercolours connected with the ongoing Picturesque Views in England and Wales (see the ‘England and Wales Colour Studies c.1825–39’ and ‘England and Wales c.1826–38’ sections), the design was among three Italian subjects exhibited by Charles Heath at London’s Egyptian Hall in the summer of 1829, apparently intended for a complementary Picturesque Views in Italy project due for publication in 1830, which came to nothing.6 One of the subjects had already appeared in 1828’s Keepsake, and the two others followed in the 1829 edition, this one as Lake Albano (Tate impressions: T04614, T05615; for the project in general, see the Introduction to this section).
Many of Turner’s light-filled Italian compositions show the influence of the Rome-based French painter Claude Lorrain (1604/5–1682), whom he greatly admired and often emulated.7 Ian Warrell has observed: ‘Both this study and the finished watercolour were directly influenced by Claude’s Landscape with Castle Gandolfo, which Turner had seen while in Rome in 1819.’8 Shadowy forms in the foreground flanking the radiant sun (reserved as a bright disk of white paper) suggest contre-jour figures, resolved towards the right of the finished design as a couple of picturesque locals conversing with a figure with a portfolio, who may be a travelling print-seller or artist.9
Finberg 1909, II, p.839; see also Warrell 1991, p.45.
Andrew Wilton, J.M.W. Turner: His Life and Work, Fribourg 1979, p.382 no.711.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, p.177 no.304, pl.307 (colour).
See Shanes 1997, pp.29, 93, and Warrell 2002, p.197.
Wilton 1979, p.384 no.731.
See transcript of MS handlist in John Gage, Collected Correspondence of J.M.W. Turner with an Early Diary and a Memoir by George Jones, Oxford 1980, p.–8, with ‘Lake Albano’ as no.32 (p.238), and Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.126–7.
See Warrell 2002, and Ian Warrell and others, Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery, London 2012.
Warrell 2002, p.197.
See Powell 1987, pp.127–9, quoting a text by Mary Shelley from the 1829 Keepsake seemingly directly inspired by the imagery of the print; see also Warrell 2002, p.197.
See Shanes 1997, p.93.