- Museum number
Villa Medici from S Anastasio; the house seen on a small hill beyond other dwellings in the foreground
- Production date
Height: 336 millimetres
Width: 531 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The Villa Medici was built on the site once occupied by the Horti Luculliani: during the Roman Empire, Messalina, Emperor Claudius’s wife, was killed in the Villa. It then became the residence of Onorio and Belisario, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, it was abandoned, due to its decentred position. The property was first acquired by Cardinal Ricci da Montepulciano between 1564 and 1574 and in 1576 by Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici. Since 1803 it has housed the French Academy in Rome.
Artists were attracted to the Villa by its gardens with fountains and for the sculptures and the reliefs mounted on the façade, a virtual open-air museum. Located on the Pincian Hill, it enjoys one of the best panoramic viewpoints of the city and is close to the Church of SS Trinitá dei Monti at the top of the Spanish Steps and perfectly integrated in the zone of the ‘Tridente’, the three streets (Via del Babuino, Via del Corso and Via di Ripetta) which depart from the north entrance of Rome, Porta del Popolo, to the centre of the city. This area was populated by the foreign artists living in Rome known as “the Ghetto of the Englishmen”.
This watercolour represents the Villa from the Church of Saint Anastasio, in Via del Babuino. A comparable version by Smith is at Yale (B1977.14.4699) and is dated 1784, with the inscription “from the Strada Babourni” (Babuino) on the reverse. Either the views are taken from a roof or a window in Via del Babuino, but the Yale version seems more finished and slightly closer to the Villa, which appears larger. The British Museum’s version was most likely painted before the other one and it may have been a basis for an oil version by Thomas Jones at Yale (B1976.2.6). The catalogue ‘Travels in Italy’ based on Jones's memoirs (1988) notes there is a gouache version by Jones in private collection.
Other artists, such as Gaspar Van Vittel and Piranesi, had represented the Villa by delineating the famous façade or its gardens, but Warwick Smith, completely ignoring these features, decides to take the view from a lower standpoint in order to convey the impression of grandeur of the panoramic hill. Thus he can represent also the roofs of the houses of the area in which he was living.
This watercolour is one from a group of 46 watercolours from the collection of the Earl of Warwick; for information on the whole group, see 1936,0704.6
Literature: Francis W. Hawcroft, “Travels in Italy”, Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, 1988, cat. 35, p. 39
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1958 Apr, BM, Eight centuries of landscape ... water-colours, case 57
1981 BM P&D, 'Francis Towne and John 'Warwick Smith', no cat.
1991 Jan-Mar, Ohio, Cleveland Mus of Art, BM/English Watercolours, no.26
1991 Mar-June, North Carolina Mus of Art, BM/English Watercolours, no.26
2001 Apr-Jul, Paris, Grand Palais, 'Paysages d'Italie', no.28
2003 May-Aug, Cardiff, Nat Mus Gall of Wales, Thomas Jones
2003 Aug-Oct, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, Thomas Jones
2004, 5-30 Nov, London, Bankside Gallery, The Presidents
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Warwick sale
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number