The Courtauld Gallery is delighted to announce the acquisition of an important watercolour by J.M.W. Turner, Rome from San Pietro in Montorio. The watercolour was allocated to The Courtauld under the highly successful Acceptance in Lieu Scheme (AIL), which allows items deemed to be national treasures to be given to the nation in place of inheritance tax. The work comes from the estate of Dorothy Scharf, whose outstanding collection of British watercolours, including eight Turners, was bequeathed to The Courtauld in 2007. This group will be a highlight of the Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition Paths to Fame: Turner Watercolours from The Courtauld (30 October 2008 – 20 January 2009).

Rome from San Pietro in Montorio is one of eight watercolours, which Turner painted for his close friend and major patron Walter Fawkes of Farnley Hall in 1820-1, in celebration of his first visit to Italy in 1819. They are enormously important in Turner’s oeuvre as they reflect his responses to the beauty, grandeur, light and colour of Italy. In the present work Rome is seen from the southern part of the Janiculum.

Turner only paid two visits to Rome and made very few finished watercolours of the city. Apart from the Walter Fawkes group he executed only a handful of others, all of much smaller size and all commissioned as illustrations to poetry. The works of 1820-1 are the most eloquent testimony in watercolour to Turner’s lifelong fascination with the eternal city. Rome from San Pietro in Montorio constitutes an outstanding addition to The Courtauld’s Turner collection in which, crucially, Italy is not currently represented.


Dr Ernst Vegelin van Claerbergen
Head of The Courtauld Gallery


J.M.W. Turner, Rome from San Pietro in Montorio, c.1820-21, Graphite and watercolour, Accepted by HM Government in Lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to The Courtauld Gallery