Turner’s exploration of Tivoli included a large number of landscape sketches drawn from the river valley to the north. This view depicts part of the cascatelli (or cascatelle), the lesser cascades caused by a branch of the River Aniene emerging from an underground passage at the top of the wooded, rocky slopes to the north of the town. Turner’s viewpoint is from the floor of the valley, at a location below the convent of San Antonio, looking east with Monte Catillo in the background. The so-called Temples of Vesta and the Sibyl are just out of sight beyond the spur of land in the centre of the composition. Related sketches can be found in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15016 and D15019; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 48 and 49a).
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created highlights within the work by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to create the cascatelli’s silvery streams of falling water. Areas of shadow have been indicated with vigorous hatched and shaded lines.