Joseph Mallord William Turner

The So-Called Temple of Vesta, Tivoli


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 253 × 200 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 45

Catalogue entry

The so-called Temple of Vesta is an ancient circular edifice dating from the first century BC which stands on the brink of the gorge at the northern edge of Tivoli. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it represented an important site for the study of classical architecture and was one of the most popular motifs for artists visiting Italy. This sketch depicts a view from just beneath the ruin looking south across its façade. Turner has partially indicated the fluted surface of the Corinthian columns, as well as the decoration of the ceiling and the sculptural frieze adorned with ox-heads and garlands. Further studies of the architectural elements can be seen on folio 45 verso (D15515). For a detailed description of the temple and other related studies see folio 44 verso (D15513).
Visible in the background to the left of the Temple of Vesta is the Church of Santa Maria del Ponte which stood near the Ponte San Rocco, above the former falling point of the ‘Grand Cascade’ of the Aniene, compare folio 27 (D15494). The church was demolished during the works to divert the river away from the residential district after a devastating flood in 1826. Similar sketches can be seen on folios 46–46a (D15516–D15517). Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background and Turner has created highlights by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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