Having visited Venice in 1851 Roberts left for his second visit to Italy on September 14, 1853. After passing through Paris he spent several weeks in Rome and executed many oils and watercolors of the city. The present view was taken from the terrace of the Convent of San Onofrio on Mount Janiculum. The left portion of the panorama, though lacking the foreground depth and staffage, corresponds with the composition of Robert's foremost work of the period 'Rome from the Convent of St. Onofrio, Mount Janiculum, ' finished in 1855 and now in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. Ruskin severely critisized the Edinburgh picture when it was exhibitedat the Royal Academy of that year for its depiction of the light, but as Alfred Ashpitel, one of Robert's sketching companions recorded of their visit to the site 'While standing in a gallery at the top of the building, the sun was setting, and shed a bright glow, lighting up the tops of every object with indescribable brilliancy, while the lower parts of the city were shrouded in gloom. The effect was extraordinary and lasted for ten or fifteen minutes, during which Roberts was charmed and said, 'I must paint this. Do you think they would let me sit here and make the sketches?'...Roberts commenced the studies first in pencil, then in watercolors, but could not catch the effect till he had recourse to oil colors when he said 'I think I have got it at last'. Ashpitel replied 'Yes ...but the effect is so unusual and you have rendered it so truthfully, that I doubt whether the critics will not say it is exaggerated and unnatural...though I can vouch for the accuracy of the coloring.' (Ballantine, op. cit, p. 181).
In addition to the present sketch, which 'in reality of local detail' the Art Journal of 1872 (op. cit.) considered marvellously accurate', one other sketch is known, now in the National Gallery of Scotland.
We are grateful to Helen Guiterman and Krystyna Matyjaszkiewicz for their help in preparing this catalogue entry. The picture will be included in their forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the paintings of David Roberts.