J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner The Casino di Raffaello, near the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 44 Verso:
The Casino di Raffaello, near the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 43 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 189 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This sketch, and others on folios 44–47 verso (D16232–9; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 43–46a), depict the Casino di Raffaello [Casino of Raphael], a small summer-house, also known as the Casino Olgiati, or the Casino Bevilacqua e Nelli.1 The position of St Peter’s in the background on the left suggests that this is a view of the southern façade. The building was destroyed during the siege of Rome in 1849 but it stood in the Galoppatoio area of the present-day Borghese park. During the early nineteenth century this land was comprised of privately owned vineyards although it was later annexed by Prince Camillo Borghese and subsumed into the gardens of the Villa Borghese.2 In the corner of another study Turner noted the word, ‘Raff’, indicating his interest in the site’s connection to the great Renaissance master, Raphael (1483–1520), see folio 47 verso (D16239; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 46a).
Charlotte Eaton provides a detailed description of the building in Rome in the Nineteenth Century, first published in 1820:
Since I have been in Rome, many are the visits I have paid to the Casino of Raphael, which was the chosen scene of his retirement, and adorned by his genius. It is about half a mile from the Porta del Popolo. The first wooden gate in the lane, on the right of the entrance into the grounds of the Villa Borghese, leads you into a vineyard, which you cross to the Casino di Raffaello; for it still bears his name, though it now belongs to Signore Nelli. It is unfurnished, except with casks of wine, and uninhabited except by a Contadina, who shows it to strangers. We passed through two rooms, painted by his scholars; the third, which was his bedroom, is entirely adorned with the work of his own hands. It is a small pleasant apartment, looking out on a little green lawn, fenced in with wood irregularly planted. The walls are covered with arabesques, in various whimsical and beautiful designs, – such as the sports of children; Loves balancing themselves on poles, or mounted on horseback, full of glee and mirth; Fauns and Satyrs; Mercury and Minerva; flowers and curling tendrils, and every beautiful composition that could suggest itself to a mind of taste, or a classic imagination, in its most sportive mood. It is impossible to describe to you the spirit of these designs. The cornice is supported by painted Carayatides. The coved roof is adorned with four medallions, containing portraits of his mistress, La Fornarina – it seemed as if he took pleasure in multiplying that beloved object, so that wherever his eyes turned her image might meet him ... in general he painted for others, – here he painted for himself – and it is interesting to see those sports of his mind, and to trace the fond delight with which he amused his leisure hours in decorating his home, the scene of his pleasures.3
As Eaton’s text indicates, the house was one of a number of Roman sites popularly believed during the nineteenth century to have been connected to Raphael. This made it a celebrated landmark for artists and tourists to the city. The building is the subject of a famous painted tondo by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), Le Casin de Raphael 1806–7 (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris) and a related drawing, c.1806–20 (Musée Ingres, Montauban).4 See also views by Thomas Jones (1742–1803),5 Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (1796–1875),6 Johann Wilhelm Schirmer (1807–1863),7 and Penry Williams (1802–1885).8 A more detailed composition by Turner can also be found in the Rome: C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16344; Turner Bequest CLXXXIX 18).
Turner shared the fascination of the period with Raphael and sketched a number of Roman subjects owing to their supposed association with the artist: for example, the statue of Jonah in the Chigi Chapel, see folio 48 (D16240; CLXXXVIII 47); the façade of the Palazzo Vidoni-Caffarelli, see folio 64 verso (D16271; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 63a); and the Casa Cenci, another building in the Borghese Gardens popularly believed to be have been used by Raphael, see folio 80 (D16302; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 79). The culmination of his interest was a large oil painting celebrating the tercentenary of the artist’s death, Rome from the Vatican exhibited 1820 (Tate, N00503).9 The composition of another view of the casino on folio 46 verso (D16237; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 45a) bears a strong resemblance to the so-called ‘Claudian’ landscape prominent in the foreground of the painting and inscribed along its lower edge, ‘Casa di Raffaello’.10 John Gage has furthermore noted a similarity between the painted depiction and a later vignette study inscribed ‘Raff Villa’ (see D27652 and D27659; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 135 and 142).11

Nicola Moorby
October 2008

Beata di Gaddo, Villa Borghese: Il Giardino e le Architetture, Rome 1985, p.188 note 23.
Alberta Campitelli (ed.), Villa Borghese: I principi, le arti, la città dal Settecento all’Ottocento, exhibition catalogue, Villa Poniatowski, Rome 2003, pp.304–5.
Charlotte Anne Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, vol.III, 2nd edition, Edinburgh 1822, pp.102–4.
See Hans Naef, Ingres in Rome, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1971, pp.3 and 17, nos.1 and 21, reproduced.
See online catalogue of the British Museum, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_details.aspx, accessed October 2009.
Reproduced in Peter Galassi, Corot in Italy, New Haven and London 1991, p.[178], fig.221.
Reproduced in colour in Anna Ottani Cavina, Un Paese Incantato: Italia Dipinta da Thomas Jones a Corot, exhibition catalogue, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Palazzo Te, Mantova, Italy 2001, p.240, fig.146.
See Raphael's residence in the Campagna di Roma in a letter dated 27 March 1827, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 04/1633, see http://www.racollection.org.uk/, accessed February 2009.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
John Gage, Colour in Turner: Poetry and Truth, London 1969, p.93.
Ibid., p.241 note 71. See also Robert E. McVaugh, ‘Turner and Rome, Raphael and the Fornarina’, in Studies in Romanticism, no.26, 1987, p.393.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘The Casino di Raffaello, near the Gardens of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, October 2008, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-the-casino-di-raffaello-near-the-gardens-of-the-villa-r1139745, accessed 16 January 2021.