The building in this sketch is the Villa la Rufinella, also called the Villa Tuscolana (now a hotel), which is the highest of the many villas built on the hill above Frascati. Like many of the grand summer houses in the area it was once a papal residence but between 1804 and 1820 the ownership had transferred to Lucien Bonaparte, younger brother of Napoleon I, a fact which may have interested Turner.
Turner’s view is taken from the terrace to the north of the building with the hill sloping away beneath and far-reaching views over the surrounding countryside, including Rome in the far distance. The panorama continues on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 29 (D15349). The grove of cypress and pine trees on the right and the layout of the villas on the opposite page indicate that this is the viewpoint for another sketch, see folio 27 (D15345), the drawing believed to provide the basis for the oil painting, Cicero at his Villa exhibited 1839 (B&J 381, private collection). The view is also similar, although not identical to the composition of a drawing by James Hakewill, Villa Ruffinella, At Frascati 1817 (British School at Rome Library). 1 A watercolour of the view from the opposite direction was painted by Charles de Chatillon (1795–1823), Villa La Rufinella a Frascati (private collection).2
In the bottom left-hand corner is an inverted sketch of an architectural detail, possibly the top of a Corinthian column.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.33, p.259 reproduced.
Reproduced in colour in Maurizio Fagiolo dell’Arco, Pier Andrea De Rosa, Paolo Emilo Trastulli et al., La Campagna Romana da Hackert a Balla, exhibition catalogue, Museo del Corso, Rome, no.97.