Joseph Mallord William Turner

Study of a Waterfall in the Valle d’Inferno, Tivoli


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 253 × 196 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 19

Catalogue entry

The subject of this swiftly drawn study is the steep gorge to the north of Tivoli, known as the Valle d’Inferno (Valley of Hell). Roughly outlined in the top right-hand corner of the page are the temples of the Acropolis, the circular so-called Temple of Vesta, and the Temple of the Sibyl, whilst to the left is the wooden bridge crossing the gully, the Ponte San Rocco, and the Church of Santa Maria del Ponte. Similar views can be seen on folios 25 and 44 (D15492 and D15512), as well as in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15074–D15076; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 77a–78a) and in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16146–D16147; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 58–9). Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created the impression of falling water and fine spray by rubbing or lifting out the watercolour wash to reveal the white paper beneath.
For over two hundred years, the vista of the ancient ruined temples seen above the gorge with the nearby cascades of the River Aniene had been one of the most frequently depicted prospects in Tivoli.1 Compare a contemporaneous drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Temple of the Sibyl, Tivoli (British School at Rome Library).2 Turner later developed his sketches and memories of the site within a vignette illustration for Rogers’s Italy, published in 1830 (see Tate D27683; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 166).
See for example views by Gaspard Dughet, in Anne French, Gaspard Dughet, called Gaspar Poussin 1615–75, exhibition catalogue, Kenwood, London 1980, nos.20 and 23, reproduced, and Thomas Jones and Francis Towne, reproduced in Francis W. Hawcroft, Travels in Italy 1776–1782: Based on the Memoirs of Thomas Jones, exhibition catalogue, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester 1988, nos.50 and 53.
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.8, p.232, reproduced.
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘359’ bottom left, and by unknown hand(s) in pencil ‘359’ bottom left, inverted, and ‘clxxxiii.19’ bottom left

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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