Joseph Mallord William Turner

The So-Called Temple of Vesta, Tivoli

c.1817–20

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Gouache, graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 504 x 393 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D17185
Turner Bequest CXCVI U

Catalogue entry

While recognising the subject, Finberg noted: ‘I know of no finished drawing for this design.’1 Indeed, Turner seems not to have developed this view of the rotunda known as the Temple of Vesta at Tivoli into a completed composition. Compare Tate D17191 (Turner Bequest CXCVII A), a large ‘colour beginning’ directly associated with the ambitious watercolour Landscape: Composition of Tivoli, dated 1817, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1818 (private collection),2 where the temple is show high on the right in a view which owes little to the actual topography of the site, about twenty miles north-east of Rome. Turner visited the town in 1819, recording its dramatic setting and classical remains in the Tivoli to Rome, Tivoli and Naples: Rome. C. Studies sketchbooks (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXIX, CLXXXIII, CLXXXVII).
The exhibited Tivoli subject is one of a number of Italian views based on topographical drawings by other artists such as James Hakewill (1778–1843)3 which Turner produced in the years immediately preceding his first visit; see Nicola Moorby’s introduction to the ‘First Italian Tour 1819–20’ section of this catalogue.4 Andrew Wilton has noted the potential link between this sheet and D17191, which shares its ‘range of heavy colours’,5 albeit noting ‘it is possible that it was done during, or after, the Italian tour of 1819’.6 Ian Warrell has observed that it ‘may have been made as part of the process of creating the large watercolour of Tivoli’,7 while dating it to allow for Turner meanwhile seeing the site in person, as reflected in the range assigned here.
1
Finberg 1909, I, p.601.
2
Wilton 1979, p.356 no.495, pl.168 (colour).
3
See Luke Herrmann, ‘Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy’ in Evelyn Joll, Martin Butlin and Herrmann (eds.), The Oxford Companion to J.M.W. Turner, Oxford 2001, p.[134].
4
See also Wilton 1979, p.381, and pp.381–3 nos.697–717.
5
Wilton 1974, p.174.
6
Ibid., p.81.
7
Warrell 2002, p.191.
Technical notes:
There is some pencil work towards the top left, as well as the beginning of detailed watercolour work around the roof of the house below the temple.
There is prominent abrasion at the edge of the water at the bottom centre.
Verso:
Blank; laid down. White wove paper backing sheet inscribed in pencil ‘41’ at centre (the ‘1’ apparently overwriting a ‘2’); stamped in black with Turner Bequest monogram over CXCVI U’ towards bottom left.

Matthew Imms
August 2016

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