The subject of this sketch is Ariccia, one of the sixteen ‘Castelli Romani’ communes just outside of Rome which sits on a hill above a wooded valley between Lakes Albano and Nemi. According to classical mythology it was the favoured hunting ground of the Roman goddess Diana and this, along with its picturesque location, celebrated architecture, and rich historical heritage, made it an established destination for tourists. It was also a popular subject for landscape artists. Turner would have associated the town with the work of Gaspard Dughet (also known as Gaspard Poussin) and Richard Wilson, and may also have been familiar with depictions by contemporary British watercolourists such as Thomas Jones, Francis Towne and John ‘Warwick’ Smith.
On this page Turner records a view well-known to landscape artists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the town seen from the road beneath the escarpment to the north-west. Turner had made a swift notational drawing of the topography on the previous page, see folio 83 (D15454; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 82) but this drawing contains more accurate architectural detail of the Palazzo Chigi on the left and Bernini’s Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunzione on the right. This viewpoint was a popular one and the composition exactly repeats that chosen by many other artists.1 Turner himself had copied a view after John ‘Warwick’ Smith’s in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13968; Turner Bequest CLXXII 20). He had also depicted it in his illustration, La Riccia, (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts) based on a drawing by James Hakewill, engraved by John Pye and published in Picturesque Tour of Italy, 1819.2 For another sketch of a similar view see also the Naples, Paestum, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15939; Turner Bequest CLXXXVI 16a). The prospect as Turner saw it was altered in 1854 when Pope Pius IX ordered the building of a bridge across the wooded valley from Albano.
For example, Richard Wilson, Ariccia circa 1754–6, chalk and pencil on white wove paper Tate T08164; Francis Towne, Ariccia 1781, watercolour on white wove paper (British Museum); John ‘Warwick’ Smith, Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi, pencil and watercolour on white wove paper, Tate T08484; Corot, Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi 1826–7, oil on canvas, Museum Langmatt, Baden, Switzerland. See also a drawing by Charles Joseph Lecointe, see Francesco Petrucci e Susanna Marra, Vedute dei Colli Albani e di Roma dall’album di viaggio di Charles Joseph Lecointe (1824–1886), exhibition catalogue, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia 2006, no.15, p.33, reproduced.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.710; W[illiam] G[eorge] Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., London 1908, vol.I, no.154.