Joseph Mallord William Turner

The So-Called Temple of Vesta, Tivoli and the Valle d’Inferno


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 186 × 112 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 88

Catalogue entry

The subject of this sketch 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. Turner has used the full length of the sketchbook page to capture the dramatic position of the structure, and the sheer, craggy drop below. The campanile to the left belongs to the Chiesa di San Giorgio, a church which until the end of the nineteenth century incorporated the ruins of the so-called Temple of the Sibyl. The prospect used to include the ‘Grand Cascade’, the former falling point of the River Aniene where it plunged into the valley popularly known as the Valle d’Inferno (Valley of Hell) and the cave known as the Grotto of Neptune. In 1826, however, the course of the river was diverted away from the residential district. Consequently, the town’s many waterfalls, including the Grand Cascade near to the Temple of Vesta, were replaced instead by the great waterfall in the Villa Gregoriana to the north-east of the town. A related view can be found on folio 65 verso (D15049), and in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15518; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 47). For a detailed description and further sketches of the Temple of Vesta see folio 3 verso (D14938).
At the bottom of the page, parallel with the gutter, is part of the landscape view from the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 88 verso (D15094; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 87a). The sketch depicts the medieval watch-tower at the north-eastern tip of Tivoli, overlooking the river valley to the north of the town.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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