Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Roman Campagna with the So-called Sedia del Diavolo and the Villa Chigi


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 130 x 255 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CXC 21 a

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch is a view of the countryside to the north of Rome with the River Tiber. Turner’s viewpoint looks north from a point on the Via Nomentana. The building on top of the small hill on the left is the Villa Chigi, whilst in the distance can be seen the Sabine Mountains. The focus of the sketch in the foreground is the so-called Sedia del Diavolo, a ruined tomb which lies in between Ponte Nomentana and the Church of Sant’Agnese fuori le mura.1 More detailed sketches of this monument can be found on folios 25 verso, 26 verso, 39, 42 and 43 (D16426, D16428, D16458, D16462 and D16463; Turner Bequest CXC 22a, 23a, 44, 47 and 48) and the tomb can also be seen in relation to the Ponte Nomentano on folio 45 (D16465; Turner Bequest CXC 50).
By the nineteenth century, exploration of the city’s environs had become as much part of the Roman experience as its architecture and monuments. Turner’s forays into the Campagna followed a long artistic tradition established during the seventeenth century by Claude Lorrain (circa 1600–82) and Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). The two French masters had famously made a number of sketching trips along the banks of the Tiber; indeed the countryside between the Porta del Popolo and the Ponte Molle had popularly become known as the ‘Promenade de Poussin’. Many of the views within this sketchbook appear to relate to a single perambulation through an area to the north of the city, from Sant’Agnese fuori le mura to Ponte Sant’Angelo, by way of the Ponte Molle (for further information see the sketchbook introduction).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background.

Nicola Moorby
June 2009

See photographs in Oreste Ferrari, Tea Marintelli, Valerie Scott et al., Thomas Ashby: Un Archeologo Fotografa la Campagna Romana Tra ’800 e’900, Rome 1986, p.32, no.10 figs.1–4.

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