attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tivoli and the Roman Campagna (after Wilson)


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Not on display

Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 724 × 965 mm
frame: 806 × 1035 × 49 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856

Display caption

Turner was a great admirer of Richard Wilson: the first British painter to combine a close attention to nature with lessons learnt from the seventeenth-century masters, Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin, and Gaspard Dughet. This painting is based on a picture by Wilson that exists in a number of versions. Turner’s work omits some features that appear in the Wilson, making Turner’s copy more of a direct representation of the view, though he does retain the large rocks that seem to have been introduced into the foreground by Wilson.

Gallery label, April 2007

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Catalogue entry

44. [N05512] Tivoli: Temple of the Sibyl and the Roman Campagna c. 1798

Canvas, 29 × 38 (73·5 × 96·5)

Coll. Turner Bequest 1856 (298, with marginal note ‘(copy from Wilson)’, identified 1946 by chalk number on back); transferred to the Tate Gallery 1947.

Lit. Davies 1946, pp. 163, 191 n. 27; Chubb 1981, p. 417 n. 1; Shanes 1981, p. 46.

This is based on a Wilson that exists in a number of versions at Cardiff, Philadelphia, the Tate Gallery and elsewhere (the Tate version and one in a private collection repr. W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson 1953, pls. 115a and 116b); the composition was also engraved in reverse by W. Byrne in 1765. Turner omits both the large tree and the figures that appear in varied forms in the Wilsons, thus making his copy more of a direct transcript of the view, though he does retain the large rocks that also seem to have been introduced into the foreground by Wilson.

William Chubb, acting on the information of David Solkin that Turner's friend the Rev. Henry Scott Trimmer owned versions of the original Wilson and also of No. 545 [N05538] below, now attributed to Wilson, suggests that Turner's copy might not have been made until after about 1807 when he first got to know Trimmer. However, the style of this copy seems to rule out so late a dating. Chubb also suggests that No. 545 might either be a companion work painted by Turner at the same time or that Turner might already have owned No. 545 [N05538] when he painted No. 44 as its companion. It seems simplest to suggest that Turner was not dependent on the picture or pictures in Trimmer's collection, or that if he was dependent on these versions, that he had somehow seen them before getting to know Trimmer personally.

For two further pictures formerly thought to be copies of Wilson by Turner but now attributed to Wilson or his followers see Nos. 546–7. [N01890-N01891]

Eric Shanes suggests that Pluto carrying off Proserpine, exhibited in 1839 (No. 380), which includes a view of Tivoli close to this one, is based on this work. However, this was a favourite view with artists and Turner must have seen it himself when in Rome, so no direct copying of the Wilson motif by way of this oil painting seems necessary.

Published in:
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984

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