This sketch depicts a view of the Vatican with the Belvedere Palace on the right and the corridors containing the Vatican Museums leading to the Apostolic Palace on the left. Turner’s location is Porta Angelica, a gate in the ancient Leonine Walls, erected during the first century to protect St Peter’s and the Vatican Hill from the Saracens. The gate, which can be seen near the central foreground, was demolished during the early twentieth century to make way for the Piazza del Risorgimento and the new walls of the Vatican City State. Prior to this it formed a popular viewpoint for artists. The drawing is very close in composition, for example, to similar views by Giuseppe Vasi (1710–82),1 Christoffer Wilhlem Eckersberg (1783–1853),2 and a copy after another artist which Turner executed as a young man with Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) (see Tate D36570; Turner Bequest CCCLXXVI 11).
Porta Angelica e i Palazzi Vaticani 1814 (Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen), reproduced in colour in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Parigi and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, no.193, p.315.