By the nineteenth century, exploration of the city’s environs had become as much part of the Roman experience as its architecture and monuments and many of the views within this sketchbook appear to relate to a single perambulation through an area to the north of Rome, from Sant’Agnese fuori le mura to Ponte Sant’Angelo, by way of the Ponte Molle (for further information see the sketchbook introduction). This sketch depicts the countryside on the northern outskirts where the Tiber meanders in a great curve past the present-day Olympic Stadium towards the Ponte Molle. Turner’s viewpoint is from the eastern bank of the river looking towards the heights of Monte Mario in the background. On the summit of the hill amidst the trees is the Villa Mellini, a sixteenth-century house built for a wealthy cardinal, Mario Mellini, from whom the name ‘Monte Mario’ derives. Today the building houses the Rome observatory and meteorological station but during the nineteenth century it was noteworthy as the location for one of the best panoramic views across the city. Lower down the slopes of the hill to the right is the Villa Madama, a sixteenth-century estate built for the Medici family which is famous for its garden loggia decorated by Raphael. For more detailed sketches of the Villa Madama see the St Peter’s sketchbook (Tate D16182; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 13a) and the Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16352, D16377 and D16388; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 26, 48 and 57). A similar distant view can also be seen in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16133; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 45).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created areas of pale highlights by lifting or rubbing through to the white paper beneath principally to describe cloud forms in the sky and the winding course of the river.