Turner’s southward journey from Rome to Naples took him past Lake Albano and on to Lake Nemi. This sketch represents part of a view of the latter from the north, looking towards Genzano and the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini on the western shore (right). Visible in the background is the distinctive profile of Monte Circeo, a headland on the coast near Terracina. The composition continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 6 verso (D15566). Related sketches can be found on folio 8 (D15569), as well as in the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15329 and D15332; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 19 and 20a). The picturesque vista was a popular one and had been repeatedly depicted by eighteenth-century British artists such as John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), Lake Nemi, watercolour, circa 1783–8 (Tate N05807), and Richard Wilson (1714–1782), see a drawing of The Terrace of the Capuchin Convent at Genzano (whereabouts unknown) and a related oil painting, Lake Nemi from a Convent Garden (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).1 Furthermore, it had already been painted by Turner himself in his watercolour, Lake of Nemi 1818 (private collection),2 based upon a drawing by James Hakewill,3 and engraved by Samuel Middiman and John Pye for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy 1819 (see Tate T06023).4 Turner was probably also familiar with another of Hakewill’s drawings which depicts a similar view but in closer proximity to Genzano.5
Like nearby Lake Albano, Lake 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 6 verso–11 (Tate D15566–D15575), the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15329–D15341; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 19–25) and the Vatican Fragments sketchbook (see Tate D15113; Turner Bequest CLXXX 5). 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.
Reproduced in Denys Sutton (ed.), An Italian Sketchbook by Richard Wilson RA, vol.II, London 1968, p.28. See also sketch on folio 6 of sketchbook, reproduced vol.1, [p.23].
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, 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.
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