As Cecilia Powell first identified, the subject of this sketch is a view of the southern end of the Janiculum Hill.1 In common with many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century visitors, part of Turner’s exploration of the city included the panoramic views seen from certain elevated vantage points. One of the most popular of these was the Janiculum Hill, a ridge of high ground to the west of the river Tiber which offered sweeping panoramas across the historical centre of the capital. This drawing looks across the eastern slope of the hill towards the distant Church of San Pietro in Montorio, the Baroque fountain of the Acqua Paola and the Villa Aurelia. The main subject of the composition, however, is the building dominating the right-hand side, the Villa Lante, a sixteenth-century summer-house designed by Giulio Romano (circa 1499–1546). The villa was famed for its view from the loggia: an epigram by the ancient poet, Valerius Martial, carved above a doorway in the loggia testifies to the fame of the prospect: ‘HINC TOTAM LICET AESTIMARE ROMAM’ [Here one can take the measure of all Rome].2 Turner’s sketch is taken from a point just below the villa looking up towards the loggia with the terrace and gardens spread out in front.3 Like many pages within this sketchbook, it has been executed over a washed grey background. Related drawings from the Villa Lante can be found in the Rome: C. Studies sketchbook (see Tate D16338; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 12 and D40856).
Turner made a thorough exploration of various locations on the Janiculum using several sketchbooks. He made a large number of drawings from the oak of Torquato Tasso at the northern end of the hill in this sketchbook, see folios 30–30 verso (D16446–D16447; Turner Bequest CXC 34a–35), in the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16378; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 49), the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16158–D16165; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 2–5), and the Albano, Nemi, Rome sketchbook (Tate D15369–D15370; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 39a–40). He also made sketches from the southern tip including from the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola (Tate D15450; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 80), from San Pietro in Montorio (Tate D16328; CLXXXIX 2 and Tate D15447–D15449; Turner Bequest CLXXXII 78a–79a), and from the Villa Aurelia (Tate D16353; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 27 and D40049). The extended series of sketches suggests that he was seriously exploring the subject as a potential picture in oil or watercolour. His interest ultimately led to a finished watercolour, Rome, San Pietro in Montorio circa 1820–1 (Courtauld Institute of Art, London) which he produced following the 1819 tour for his great friend and patron, Walter Fawkes.4
Powell 1984, p.428.
Quoted in James F. O’Gorman, ‘The Villa Lante in Rome; Some Drawings and Some Observations’, Burlington Magazine, vol.113, no.816, March 1971, p.133.
Today the villa is the home of the Institutum Romanum Finlandiae and the Finnish Embassy to the Vatican, see http://www
.irfrome, accessed June 2009. .org /eng /temp_01a .asp ?IdNews =302
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.720, as ‘Rome, from the Pincian Hill’. First identified with correct title by David Hill in Turner in Yorkshire, exhibition catalogue, York City Art Gallery, York 1980, no.97, p.64. Reproduced in colour in The Courtauld Collection, exhibition catalogue, Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere 2008, no.16.