Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Vicolo Sterrata, Rome, with the Statue of Apollo in the Gardens of the Palazzo Barberini


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 189 × 113 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXII 69 a

Catalogue entry

Cecilia Powell has identified this drawing as a view of the Vicolo Sterrata, a rustic looking street which once ran behind the gardens of the Palazzo Barberini and is today the via Barberini. In his book Walks in Rome, Augustus J.C. Hare recalled this celebrated picturesque corner of the city:
Till late years, there was a pretty old-fashioned garden belonging to this [Barberini] palace, at one corner of which – overhanging an old statue – stood the celebrated Barberini Pine, often drawn by artists from the Via Sterrata at the back of the garden, where statue and pine combined well with the Church of S. Caio; but, alas! this magnificent tree was cut down in 1872, and the church has since been destroyed.1
As Hare notes, the motif of the large stone pine and the adjacent statue of the Apollo Citerado (i.e. playing the cithara) offered an attractive proposition for artists and the spot was painted by a number of nineteenth-century painters including Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875), Ettore Roesler Franz (1845–1907),2 and the Danish artist Constantin Hansen (1804–1880).3 The statue can still be found within the grounds of the palace but now stands in a niche at the back of the gardens. The bell-tower in the background belongs to San Caio, a church which was demolished in 1880 to make way for the building of the Ministry of War.4
The location was also the subject of a poem by the American writer and social activist, Julia Ward Howe (1819–1910). A verse entitled ‘Via Felice’ contains the stanzas:
’Twas in the Via Felice
My friend his dwelling made,
The Roman Via Felice
Half sunshine, half in shade.
A marble God stands near it
That once deserved a shrine,
And, veteran of the old world,
The Barberini pine.5
A further sketch of the statue can be found in the Vatican Fragments sketchbook (see Tate D15245; Turner Bequest CLXXX 49).

Nicola Moorby
May 2008

Augustus J.C. Hare, Walks in Rome, vol.1, reprint of 1897 edition, Boston 2000, p.292.
Vicolo Sterrato 1876, oil in canvas, Museo di Roma, reproduced in Powell 1987, p.[41], fig.43.
En gade i Rom. Vicolo Sterrato [A Street in Rome. Vicolo Sterrato] circa 1837, oil on white wove paper, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. Cecilia Powell also notes views by T.H. Cromeck in 1831 and W. Cowan in 1828, Powell 1987, p.202 note 13.
Steps off the Beaten Path: Nineteenth Century Photographs of Rome and its Environs, on-line exhibition, American Academy in Rome 2006, no.32, accessed May 2008.
Julia Ward Howe, Words for the Hour, Boston 1857, p.52.

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