The subject of this highly coloured landscape is open to debate. Although Turner inscribed it ‘Hadrian’s Villa’ it has also been suggested that the scene depicts a view of the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the distance.1
Owing to the Italianate theme of the vignette, Jan Piggott has previously linked this work with Turner’s series of illustrations for Rogers’ Italy (1830).2 The artist produced a preparatory study and a finished vignette of the Bay of Naples for Rogers’s Italy, both of which show a similar arrangement of the bay in the foreground and Mount Vesuvius in the distance (see Tate D27660; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 143 and Tate D27530; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 13). However, the expressive brushstrokes and fiery colours that Turner employs are more closely related to the style and palette of two other vignette studies, both of which may show the Villa Madama, another subject in Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27652; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 135 and Tate D40316; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 24v, the latter is the verso of this watercolour). It seems likely that Turner produced the compositions at the same time. In light of a watermark on one of the sheets these works are now tentatively dated circa 1842.
The top of the watercolour has been marked with a ruled pencil line and there is also another line in purple watercolour near the top of the sheet.