Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli, from Piazza dell’Olmo


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Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 200 x 253 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 4

Catalogue entry

Thomas Ashby identified the subject of this sketch as a view of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor) from the Piazza dell’Olmo (present-day Piazza Domenico Tani), near the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Lorenzo in Tivoli.1 The two arches on the left are part of the substructures connected with the Santuario, formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas. The sweeping vista to the right meanwhile encompasses the valley to the north of the town with the course of the River Aniene meandering west towards the plain of the Roman Campagna.
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created highlights within the work by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to create the silvery streams of falling water, the winding river, and the cloud formations in the sky. In the foreground of the bottom left-hand corner the artist has incorporated an incidental figurative detail of a woman leaning against the wall of the terrace.
The Santuario di Ercole Vincitore features in many of Turner’s 1819 sketches looking both up and down the valley, and he also made detailed tonal studies of the architecture and the arched passageway underneath the ruin’s substructures, see folio 5 (D15471). It was the vista from the north-east however, which seems to have held the greatest visual appeal, see folio 3 (D15469). Turner later considered developing a similar view for the Tivoli vignette illustration for Rogers’s Italy, 1830 (see Tate D27605; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 88), and ultimately revisited it within an oil sketch, Tivoli, the Cascatelle circa 1827–8 (Tate, N03388) and an unfinished painting, Tivoli: Tobias and the Angel circa 1835 (Tate, N02067).2
Ashby 1914a, p.223, Ashby 1914b, p.247, and Ashby 1925, p.31.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, nos.311 and 437.
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘353’ bottom left, and by an unknown hand in pencil ‘88’ centre

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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