Joseph Mallord William Turner

The So-Called Temple of Vesta, Tivoli, from 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 65 a

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 Tivoli. 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 artist has used the full vertical height of the page to depict the scale of the vertiginous drop from the Temple to the steep, craggy gorge below. The prospect used to include the ‘Grand Cascade’ of the Aniene, the falling point where the river 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 similar view can be seen on folio 89 (D15095; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 88), whilst a more detailed tonal study can be found within the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15518; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 47). For further sketches and a detailed discussion of the Temple of Vesta see folio 3 verso (D14938).

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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