The subject of this sketch is the Piazza San Carlo, one of the most important historic squares in Turin. The composition spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 31 verso (D14205; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 30a) and Turner has annotated that sheet with an inscription indicating that his viewpoint was the intersection of the ‘Piazza S[an] Carlo’ and the ‘Contrada [di] S[an] Filippo’, a street now known as Via Maria Vittoria which joins the north-east corner of the piazza near the Church of San Filippo Neri. The view on this side of the drawing looks south towards the end of the piazza which is bordered by the ‘twin’ Churches of Santa Cristina (left) and San Carlo (right). Visible on the far left-hand side meanwhile are some of the seventeenth-century porticoed arcades that formed the old city marketplace and the artist has noted that there are ‘23’ arched windows along the façade of the eastern side. The view includes people thronged around a handful of market stalls, including one selling pots. For a similar but less detailed sketch see folio 35 verso (D14213; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 34a).
Turin was the first major city which Turner reached during his 1819 tour of Italy and this study is one of a significant number of drawings which he made during his brief sojourn there. The careful and precise nature of his sketches reflects his interest in Italian architecture, as well as his excitement at arriving at such a notable and important destination. For a list of further sketches of the city see folio 12 (D14166; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 11).