Joseph Mallord William Turner

Studies at Sunset in the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, Rome


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 × 114 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65

Catalogue entry

This page contains several sketches taken at sunset incorporating the gardens of the Villa Borghese. Turner’s viewpoint may have been the terrace of the Villa Medici. From here he could look north across the Borghese park (top) and west across the city towards the sun setting behind the distant silhouette of St Peter’s (second from top). The proliferation of buildings, sculptures and trees, includes some recognisable landmarks from the gardens such as the arcade of the Orangery (top) and the Casino dell’Orologio (Clock tower) in the Piazza di Siena (third sketch from bottom right). Meanwhile the classical sculpture with a raised arm (bottom centre) is a statue of the Dea Roma which in the present day can be found in the gardens of the Villa Medici near the walkway from the Pincio.1 A further sketch can be found in the Small Roman C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16410; Turner Bequest CXC 12a). The primary focus of Turner’s attention, however, is the appearance of the sky above the park and the transformation of the landscape by the approaching dusk. The artist has used the soft edge of the pencil and vigorous cross hatching to create areas of shadow and dark tone. He has also peppered his drawings with notes describing the brilliant colours created by the sunset. Similar sky studies can be found on folios 65 (D16272; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 64) and 67 verso (D16277; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 66a). For other sketches of the Borghese Gardens and a general discussion see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61). For sketches of the Villa Medici see folio 66 verso (D16275; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65a).
Ascending the edge of the page in the bottom left-hand corner is a separate study of an unidentified architectural detail.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

See Hans Naef, Ingres in Rome, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1971, no.12 p.10, reproduced p.12. The statue was moved in 1822 to a position near the Aurelian wall.

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