This sketch depicts a view of Piazza Castello, the main city square in the historic centre of Turin. Turner appears to have adopted a high viewpoint at the southern end of the piazza looking towards the Palazzo Reale at the northern end with the campanile and domes of the Duomo (Cathedral) and the Capella della Sacra Sindone (Chapel of the Holy Shroud) beyond. Finberg suggested his position was a house or some staging in the Via Roma.1 The left-hand side of the composition is dominated by the west side of the piazza with its porticoed arcades and the royal Church of San Lorenzo with its octagonal drum and lantern rising above. Just visible on the far right-hand side is an oblique view of the Baroque façade of the Palazzo Madama beneath which appears to be some scaffolding with labourers at work. For a more detailed study of the Palazzo Madama from the Piazza Castello see folio 33 (D14208); Turner Bequest CLXXIV 32). A later record dating from Turner’s second trip in 1828 can also be found in the Rome, Turin and Milan sketchbook (Tate D21679; Turner Bequest CCXXXV 8a).
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. However, as was his habit, some of the repetitious detail within his visual record of the buildings has been left blank. For a list of further sketches of the city see folio 12 (D14166; Turner Bequest CLXXIV 11).
Finberg 1930, p.16. Finberg reproduced the sketch with a comparable photograph taken from a balcony within the Hotel d’Europe and noted how little the buildings on the west side of the piazza had changed (around 1930).