Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Temple of Aesculapius in the Grounds of Villa Borghese, Rome, with the Greek Inscription from its Façade


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 113 × 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXCI 22

Catalogue entry

Cecilia Powell has identified this sketch as a view of the Temple of Aesculapius in the grounds of the Villa Borghese, a large area of parkland north of central Rome, built during the early seventeenth century for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.1 Flaminio Ponzio (circa 1560–1613), the architect who designed the Casino Borghese, also laid out the grounds including a series of formal gardens, an area of natural parkland, an aviary (the Uccelliera), and a scattering of statues, fountains and ancient monuments. The park was further transformed during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by the building of a wooded lake garden, landscaped in the English manner with neo-classical features, partly designed by the British artist, Jacob More (circa 1740–1793).2 The Temple of Aesculapius (Tempio di Esculapio) is an eighteenth century addition to the grounds. Built in 1786 by Antonio and Mario Asprucci, the building is of Ionic design and houses a statue of the eponymous god.3 Turner’s sketch looks across at the temple from the opposite side of a small lake. In the bottom right-hand corner he has made an accurate transcription of the Greek inscription which runs beneath the frieze across the façade. Further studies from alternate viewpoints can be found on folio 22 verso (D16526).
Turner made a number of quick studies of the Borghese gardens with the various architectural features seen through the trees, see for example the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16267–D16270; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61–63). Other sketches of the grounds can be found on folios 21–21 verso and 23 (D16523–D16524 and D16527).

Nicola Moorby
February 2009

Powell 1984, p.428; see, accessed February 2009.
Raymond Keaveney, Views of Rome from the Thomas Ashby Collection in the Vatican Library, exhibition catalogue, Smithsonian Institution, Washington 1988, p.221.

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