In the summer of 1840 Ruskin fell ill with suspected tuberculosis and on his doctors’ advice was taken by his parents on a tour of the continent. His first adult visit to Italy began at Genoa (on 31 October), where he at once started to undertake ambitious drawings, mostly on large sheets of grey paper, in a style heavily influenced by Samuel Prout and David Roberts. The family was in Rome in November and December, and returned in March 1841 on the way home. Ruskin took an immediate dislike to the city, where classical architecture predominated over his beloved Gothic, but he did make several drawings, of which this is one of the finest.
Finally completed in 1762, the Trevi Fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi, following a design of Gianlorenzo Bernini. Ruskin had little admiration for Baroque architecture or sculpture, but wrote in his diary that “I got among the mimicked rocks and among the deep pools of this most noble fountain until I fancied myself among the gushing torrents of my own Cumberland.”