Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Gardens of Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore; and Notes by Turner on Works of Art in Palazzo Borromeo


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 111 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIV 77

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is a view of the famous terraced gardens of Isola Bella, one of the Borromean islands on Lake Maggiore.1 Turner’s viewpoint is from the top of the terraced pyramid looking north-west in the direction of the Alps. Despite the rough, schematic nature of the drawing Turner has clearly delineated some of the decorative elements of the Italianate garden such as the balustrade surrounding the terrace, and the obelisks flanking a statue of Love riding a unicorn.2 Turner explored the island both from the water and on foot and made a series of sketches of the palace and its grounds. For a more detailed discussion see folio 77 verso (D14293; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 76a).
The page also contains notes by the artist which Federico Crimi has identified as pertaining to the paintings gallery within the Baroque Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella.3 The text, which is inverted and partially illegible, reads as follows: ‘[?Procaccini] [?agnes] 1494 [arrno Zenale | Crespi [...] Copy of the [?Mag] | Zuccarilo [?Na...] Monti [?Achilles] and Hebe’. These references respectively appear to relate to The Martyrdom of Saint Agnes by Camillo Procaccini (1555–1629), the painters Bernardo or Bernardino Zenale (c.1460–1526), Giovan Battista Crespi (1573–1632) and Francesco Zuccarelli (1702–1788), and sculptures of Achilles and Hebe by the sculptor Gaetano Matteo Monti (1776–1847).

Nicola Moorby
January 2013

First identified by Federico Crimi. See Crimi 2006, p.201 and Crimi 2009, p.63.
Crimi has stated that these elements are those which appeared in Turner’s illustration for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, published 1820 (see Tate T06029). However, Hakewill’s view depicts the grotto known as the Teatro Massimo on the northern side of the terraces, not the top.
Crimi 2009, pp.63–4.

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