Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Villa d’Este, Tivoli, from the Rotunda of the Cypresses


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 36 a

Catalogue entry

Turner devoted several pages of the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook to studies of the Villa d’Este, a sixteenth-century villa and formal Renaissance garden built for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (1509–1572), the son of Lucrezia Borgia. This sketch records the view looking south-east towards the casino from the lower terraces of the gardens. On the far left can be seen the baroque scrolls and semi-circular arched niche of the Organ Fountain, the hydraulics of which were designed to push air through a series of organ pipes to emit sound. The tall trees framing the view towards the terraces and the palace indicate that Turner was standing within the Rotunda of the Cypresses, an open space encircled by small fountains, statues and some of the tallest and oldest cypress trees in Italy. This vista represented one of the views of the estate most popular amongst topographical and landscape artists.1 Cecilia Powell has suggested that it may have provided the inspiration for the avenue of trees on the left-hand side of side of Turner’s later oil painting, Cicero in his Villa 1839 (private collection).2
For a full discussion of Turner’s sketches of the Villa d’Este see folio 5 verso (D14942).

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

See for example Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etching, Veduta della Villa Estense in Tivoli from the Veduta di Roma, reproduced in Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, no.976, p.743.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.381; Powell 1984, p.356.

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