David Solkin has suggested that this picture is the same picture which Constable identifies as the prime composition of this view, previously in the collections of J. Tayleur and F.S. Clarke and then with Legatt and, in 1950, with Gooden and Fox (op.cit p. 191, no. 64 (1)). Constable believed that the prime picture was probably painted in Italy and was the basis of the artist's other compositions which show minor variations, notably the two in the collections of the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool, and the Corporation Art Gallery, Birmingham. (op. cit under 64a and 64b). Dr Campbell Golding lent the present picture in 1959 to the British Council exhibition of the The 18th Century in Rome and would no doubt have been aware of the picture's provenance, the catalogue for that exhibition identifies this picture as Constable's prime version. Solkin suggests Constable's description of the prime picture is erroneous in some details.
Dr Golding also owned a drawing of this subject, one of a series commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, in 1754. This drawing was sold by Christie's on 7 June 2001 (£35,250).
This picture shows the Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Popes, built for Urban VIII on the designs of Carlo Maderna. The Castel dominates Lake Albano (which lies eighteen miles south-east of Rome) visited by 18th century visitors on their Grand Tour because of its connections with classical antiquity. The site of Alba Longa, an ancient town is nearby, and Pompey and Domitian among other celebrated Romans had built villas on the lake's shores.
Wilson probably arrived in Rome in 1752 with Thomas Jenkins, an artist and archaelogist, who accompanied Wilson on his travels in the environs of Rome. Wilson's Italian landscapes were influenced by the work of Gaspar Poussin and of Claude Lorrain, In the 1750s, Claude's view of Castel Gandolfo (now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) could be seen in the Palazzo Barberini, Rome, and it likely that Wilson has this painting in mind when he chose his vantage point for the present picture. However, Wilson's view may give a more accurate account of the architecture, as Farington observed, although Wilson studied Claude he made 'his obsevations more exact'.