Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin

Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Thomas Girtin 1775–1802
Watercolour on paper
Support: 230 × 296 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 14

Display caption

When Turner (together with Thomas Girtin) made this watercolour at the London home of Dr Thomas Monro in the 1790s, he had yet to visit Italy. Instead, it was based upon a first-hand study by another artist in Monro’s collection. The temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli was among the most celebrated motifs for British artists in Italy, and had been painted notably by Richard Wilson, whose work Turner deeply admired, and also copied. Turner visited Tivoli in the autumn of 1819 during his first Italian sojourn, when he made numerous sketches of the Temple and the surrounding countryside.

Gallery label, April 2007

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Catalogue entry

Probably commissioned by Dr Thomas Monro
Monro’s posthumous sale, Christie’s, London, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known)
Bought by or on behalf of Turner
This was possibly copied from a sketch by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), but perhaps taken from a different source such as Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691–1765) or Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721–1820). Girtin copied Clérisseau for John Henderson (1764–1843); an example from Henderson’s collection showing the Temple of Concord, Rome is in the British Museum, London (1878–12–28–35).1 Compare drawings in the second ‘Monro School’ album, Tate D36506 and D36507 (Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV 27 b, 28). However, the pencil work here is less typical of Girtin than usual in this series, and the drawing as a whole has an integrated character which suggests that it may be Turner’s work alone.
Andrew Wilton, ‘The “Monro School” Question: Some Answers’, Turner Studies, vol.4, no.2, Winter 1984, p.11 fig.4.
Inscribed, perhaps by Thomas Girtin, in pencil ‘[?Cybeles] Temble [sic] | Tivoli’, and in a later hand in blue pencil ‘71’.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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