J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

Joseph Mallord William Turner Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 31 Recto:
Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819
D15498
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 31
Pencil and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 200 x 253 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘31’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIII 31’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
 
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The subject of this sketch is the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor), a large temple complex dating from the first century BC, formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas, which stands at the top of the river valley to the north of Tivoli. Turner’s study is taken from a point on the slopes beneath the ruin, looking south-west down the valley, towards the Ponte dell’Acquoria (Bridge of the Golden Water) and the distant plain of the Roman Campagna. The winding course of the River Aniene has been faintly outlined in the bottom right-hand corner. Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background.
The Santuario di Ercole Vincitore was one of Tivoli’s most famous landmarks and its picturesque qualities had made it a popular subject for artists. Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published in 1813, recommended the view from the opposite side of the valley where ‘the towers of the town rising on the top of the hill beyond the cascade, with the ruins of Maecenas’s villa on its shelving side, form one of the most delicious pictures for softness and beauty, wildness and animation, that can be imagined.’1 He described the temple as Turner would have seen it:
Maecenas’s villa [Santuario di Ercole Vincitore] stands at the extremity of the town on the brow of the hill and hangs over several streamlets which fall down the steep. It commands a noble view of the Anio [Aniene] and its vale beneath, the hills of Albano and Monticelli, the Campagna, and Rome itself rising on the borders of the horizon. It still presents several traces of its former magnificence, such as a triple row of arches, seventeen below and fourteen above ... The active Cardinal Ruffo during the reign of the late pontiff, turned it into a foundry, after having stripped the walls and the roof of the ivy, and effaced the venerable marks of ruin which the hand of time had shed over them. A branch of the river pours through the arched gallery and vaulted cellars, and shaking the edifice as it passes along, rushes in several sheets down the declivity.2
The ruin 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 substructures, see folio 5 (D15471). It was the vista from the north-east, however, which seems to have held the most enduring visual appeal for the artist and which was ultimately developed within more finished work, see folio 3 (D15469).
1
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.237–9.
2
Ibid., pp.240–1.
Verso:
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2010, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-santuario-di-ercole-vincitore-tivoli-r1137774, accessed 23 September 2014.