Turner’s viewpoint for this sketch was the hill to the north-west of Lake Nemi, looking towards Genzano which can be seen in the centre with the rectangular mass of the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini. This view was a popular one with artists such as John Robert Cozens (see Tate N05807) and had already been depicted by Turner in his watercolour, Lake of Nemi 1818 (private collection),1 based upon a drawing by James Hakewill,2 and engraved by Samuel Middiman and John Pye for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, 1819 (see Tate T06023).3 Turner was probably also familiar with another of Hakewill’s drawings which depicts a similar view but in closer proximity to Genzano.4 The topographical configuration in his own sketch suggests that it was probably taken somewhere in between the location for both of Hakewill’s. The grove of cypress and stone pine trees on the right is characteristic of the landscape in this part of Italy, see folio 18 (D15327). Related sketches can be found in the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15567 and D15569; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 7 and 8).
Like Lake Albano, the Lake of Nemi lies within a volcanic crater and shares its name with the largest town on its shores. Also known as the ‘lo specchio di Diana (‘the mirror of Diana’), the still blue expanse of the water surrounded by verdant green hills was an established attraction for artists and other visitors on the Grand Tour. Turner’s first exposure to it was probably through the work of John Robert Cozens, whose Italian watercolours he copied in his youth, at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (see for example Tate D36470; Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII 57), but he would have been familiar with other artistic representations, such as the view by John ‘Warwick’ Smith which he noted in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13968; Turner Bequest CLXXII 20). Furthermore, a painting of the lake in the style of Richard Wilson (1713–1782) was part of his personal art collection and probably hung in his gallery at Queen Anne Street (see Tate N05565). His first sighting of the lake in 1819 therefore fulfilled a long anticipated ambition to see the celebrated site for himself and he recorded his experiences within three sketchbooks, see folios 19–25 (D15329–D15341), the Vatican Fragments sketchbook (see Tate D15113; Turner Bequest CLXXX 5) and the Gandolfo to Naples sketchbook (Tate D15566–D15575; Turner Bequest CLXXXIV 6a–11). Whilst he had walked all around the perimeter of Lake Albano, his depictions of Lake Nemi in this sketchbook were limited to views from the western side, particularly Ariccia and Genzano di Roma looking across towards the town of Nemi. See also the general introduction to the sketchbook.
Fribourg 1979, no.711.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.20, reproduced p.245.
W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol.I, no.155.
Cubberley and Herrmann 1992, no.5.21, reproduced p.246.
Fribourg 1979, no.1381; engraved Robert Wallis, see Rawlinson 1913, no.659.
Ibid., no.1311; engraved by Edward Goodall, see Rawlinson 1913, no.683.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.304.