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This page contains a distant view of Tivoli seen from the end of the valley to the north-east. Turner’s viewpoint appears to be the Convent of Sant’Antonio, also known the Villa d’Orazio (Villa of Horace).1 Visible in the centre of the prospect is the so-called Temple of Vesta, a circular ruin dating from the first century BC, which stands on the edge of the gorge at the northern edge of the town, near the former falling point of the ‘Great Cascade’ of the River Aniene. Silhouetted against the horizon to the right meanwhile are the campanile of the Cathedral (Duomo) San Lorenzo, and a medieval watch-tower positioned above the falls of the cascatelli (or cascatelle), the lesser cascades. In the far distance to the west is the sun setting over the flat plain of the Roman Campagna. Similar vistas from the end of the valley can be seen on folios 2, 18, 22, 33, 35, 78, 80 (D15468, D15484, D15488, D15500, D15502, D15550, D15552), as well as the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15000–D15005 and D15092; Turner Bequest 40–42 verso and 86a), and in a watercolour study in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16116; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 28). 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 delineate the foreground foliage and the silvery falls of the cascades.
Turner repeated this vista in the Roman and French sketchbook (Tate D21912; Turner Bequest CCXXXVII 35a), during his 1828 visit to Tivoli. The composition is also similar to that of an early oil painting, Tivoli and the Roman Campagna circa 1798 (Tate, N05512),2 which was itself based upon a version of a picture by the eighteenth-century Welsh artist, Richard Wilson (1713–1782), for example, Temple of the Sibyl and the Roman Campagna circa 1765–70 (Tate, T01706). Today, the same view of Tivoli is dominated by the great waterfall of the Villa Gregoriana, created by the diversion of the river away from the residential district after a devastating flood in 1826.
Information suggested by Matthew Nicholls, University of Reading, September 2009. See the photograph of Temple of Vesta with Convent of Sant’Antonio in the background, in Thomas Ashby, ‘Roman Remains in the Monastery of S. Antonio in Tivoli’, in Journal of Roman Studies, vol.4, 1914, pl.XIX.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.44.