Joseph Mallord William Turner

Three Sketches of the Grounds of the Villa Borghese, Rome

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 114 × 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D16270
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 63

Catalogue entry

Owing to the inscription in the top right-hand corner of the previous page Cecilia Powell made the logical assumption that the sketches on folios 62–64 (D16267–D16270; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61–63), depict the grounds of the Villa Doria Pamphili on the Janiculum Hill. However, Turner’s annotation probably reads ‘Doric Pillars’ and the subject is actually the Villa Borghese on the Pincian Hill. For a general discussion see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61).
This page contains three distinct sketches recording various features scattered between the trees within the Borghese park. For example the columned structure visible in the bottom right-hand corner is the Temple of Antonino and Faustina, an eighteenth-century mock-up of a classical ruin, and the building with three arches in the top left-hand corner may represent the Portico dei Leoni, another eighteenth-century addition to the gardens. Turner’s drawings lack detail and finish and were clearly executed extremely swiftly. Cecilia Powell has described his use of pencil as ‘chalk-like’ in appearance,1 a technique he often employed when the light was failing and the landscape was transformed by the approach of dusk. Studies of the sky on folio 66 (D16274; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65) reveal that he was indeed sketching in the gardens whilst the sun was setting.

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

1
Powell 1984, p.475 note 30.

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