Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tivoli, from the Valley


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 49 a

Catalogue entry

Turner’s exploration of Tivoli included a large number of landscape sketches drawn from the river valley to the north. He was particularly attracted by the spectacle of the town’s ancient ruins perched above the steep, wooded gorge and streaming waterfalls. This page contains a view of the spur of land at the northern tip of the town where part of the river flowed from an underground passage and emerged in cascades down the slopes. Turner’s viewpoint is the floor of the valley at a point beneath the convent of San Antonio and the so-called Temples of Vesta and the Sibyl are just out of sight round the corner on the left-hand side of the composition. He has used rough hatching and shading to describe the steep craggy slopes, lush vegetation and cascades of falling water. The buildings visible along the crest of the hill are shaded in darkness suggesting that the sketch was drawn during late afternoon or early evening when the sun was setting in the west. Similar views can be seen on folios 48–52 verso and 55 (D15016–D40926 and D15027), and in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15467; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 1).
In the top left-hand corner of the page Turner has invoked the name of Gaspard Dughet (1615–1675), a seventeenth-century landscapist also known as Gaspar Poussin because of the similarity of his style to that of his mentor and brother-in-law, Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665). Widely appreciated and collected in Britain, Dughet was best known for his paintings of Tivoli and the Roman Campagna. Along with Claude Lorrain (circa 1604/5–1682) and Richard Wilson (1713–1782), Dughet was the artist uppermost in Turner’s mind during this part of his Italian tour.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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