Many travellers to Italy admired the stone pines. In 1817 the poet William Wordsworth saw a solitary pine tree on Monte Mario and was told that his friend Sir George Beaumont had bought it to save it from being felled. Wordsworth described it as “one of the broad-topped pines, looking like a little cloud in the sky, with a slender stalk to connect it to its native earth.”
In his British landscapes, Turner shows a preference for slender trees, such as Scots pines and willows, rather than the major forest trees, oak, ash, beech and elm, and sometimes his supposedly British trees look remarkably Italianate. Their beautifully-shaped heads act like clouds in the sky, while their slender trunks seem to sway slightly in the breeze.
By the time Turner finally got to Italy in 1819, he had already painted many Italianate trees. In the Italian landscapes of his maturity, such as Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1832, Tate), there is often only a single tree, a tall stone pine with a slender trunk and a compact head of foliage, which became a kind of signature tree for him.