Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Rome from Villa Madama on Monte Mario


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 229 x 368 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 48

Catalogue entry

Some of the most famous panoramas of Rome could be seen from the heights of Monte Mario, a hill to the north of the city (for a general discussion see Tate D16174; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 9a). This sketch depicts a sweeping view of approximately ninety degrees looking south-east from the Esquiline Hill on the left to St Peter’s on the right. Identifiable landmarks visible across the horizon include, from left to right: the obelisk of Piazza dell’Esquilino framed by the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore; the long stretch of the Quirinal Palace; the Capitoline Hill; the Castel Sant’Angelo; the Janiculum Hill; and on the far right, the dome of St Peter’s. The building in the right-hand foreground is the Villa Madama, a sixteenth-century estate built for the Medici family on the eastern slopes of the hill. Turner recorded similar viewpoints on folio 57 (D16388) and within the St Peter’s sketchbook (see Tate D16178–D16181; Turner Bequest 11a–13). He also made several alternative images featuring the view from Monte Mario within this sketchbook, see folios 31, 33 and 60 (D16357, D16360, D16391) and loose sheets (D16337, D16342, D16350, D16352; CLXXXIX 11, 16, 24, 26).
As Cecilia Powell has discussed, the visual approach of depicting a distant prospect of the city from Monte Mario had a long artistic tradition.1 Turner may have known similar examples by his eighteenth-century landscape predecessors such as Richard Wilson’s Rome from the Villa Madama 1753 (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven),2 or John Robert Cozens’s Rome from the Villa Mellini circa 1783–8 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).3 The large number of detailed studies devoted to the subject within this sketchbook suggests that Turner was seriously exploring the idea as a potential theme for a painting. Indeed, after his return to England he produced Rome, from the Monte Mario circa 1820–1 (private collection),4 one of a number of watercolours painted for Turner’s great friend and patron, Walter Fawkes, following the artist’s 1819 Italian tour. The topographical details of this sketch are close to the finished watercolour although ultimately the precise compositional basis can be found within another view, see folio 31 (D16357). Like many pages within this sketchbook, the drawing has been executed over a washed grey background and Turner has created areas of pale highlights within the sky and landscape by rubbing through to the white paper beneath.
Cecilia Powell, Turner in the South: Rome, Naples, Florence, New Haven and London 1987, pp.104–7.
Reproduced David Solkin, Richard Wilson, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1982, no.67, p.184.
Reproduced Powell 1987, fig.116, p.106.
Andrew Wilton, The Life and Work of J.M.W. Turner, Fribourg 1979, no.719. Reproduced in colour in Eric Shanes, Evelyn Joll, Ian Warrell and others, Turner: The Great Watercolours, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London 2000, no.52, p.145.

Nicola Moorby
July 2009

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