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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Three Sketches of the Grounds and Casino Nobile of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 63 Verso:
Three Sketches of the Grounds and Casino Nobile of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 62 a
Pencil on white wove paper, 114 x 189 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘Doric P[?illars]’ top right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Owing to the inscription in the top right-hand corner of this page Cecilia Powell made the logical assumption that the sketches on folios 62–64 (D16267–D16270; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61–63), depict the grounds of the Villa Doria Pamphili on the Janiculum Hill. However, Turner’s annotation probably reads ‘Doric Pillars’,1 and the subject is actually the Villa Borghese near the Pincian Hill. For a general discussion see folio 62 (D16267; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 61).
This page contains three distinct sketches. The view at the top depicts part of the grounds of the Villa Borghese, looking west from the Via Pinciana side. In the centre is the Piazza di Siena with the clock tower of the Casino dell’Orologio, whilst on the right is an ornamental wall near the Meridiana (Sun Dial) known as the Rotonda di Goethe. At the bottom of the page are two studies of the Casino Nobile, (now the Galleria Borghese). The villa, with its projecting wings topped by towers, was built in the early seventeenth century by Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Vasanzio for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, nephew of Pope Paul V.2 Its stylistic similarity to the nearby Villa Medici led Finberg to an incorrect identification but close inspection reveals the differences between the two buildings, see folio 66 verso (D16275; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 65a). The entire surface of the façade of the Villa Borghese was originally densely encrusted with various bas-reliefs and statues but by the time of Turner’s visit some of these had been sold by the owner of the villa, Prince Camillo Borghese to his powerful brother-in-law, Napoleon Bonaparte. Turner has sketched the building from the north-west side (bottom left) and from the front (bottom right).
In addition to visiting the exterior of the Villa Borghese, Turner’s 1819 trip to Rome included at least one visit to the famous art collection housed within its walls. The Borghese gallery which included masterpieces by Titian, Domenichino and Veronese, was one of the most important in Europe. John Chetwode Eustace described it in A Classical Tour of Italy as ‘lined and inlaid with the richest marbles, and supported by the noblest pillars, intermingled with bronze and gilding, and adorned with the best specimens of ancient art and sculpture and in painting. Such indeed in the value of this collection, and such the splendour of the apartments in which it is displayed, that no sovereign in Europe can boast of so rich a gallery, or of a residence so truly imperial.’3 Turner’s notes and thoughts on the paintings he saw there can be found within the Remarks (Italy) sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CXCIII).

Nicola Moorby
January 2009

Identified by Thomas Ashby, unpublished notes, Turner Bequest Archive, Tate.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, p.207.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Three Sketches of the Grounds and Casino Nobile of the Villa Borghese, Rome 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 2009, 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-three-sketches-of-the-grounds-and-casino-nobile-of-the-villa-r1139781, accessed 19 January 2022.