Turner was particularly attracted by the spectacle of Tivoli’s ancient ruins perched above the steep, wooded gorge and streaming waterfalls to the north. This study depicts the view looking south from the floor of the river valley. The spur of land at the centre of the composition, topped by a medieval watch-tower, is the point where part of the river flowed from an underground passage and emerged in cascades down the slopes. Just visible on the right is the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor), a Roman ruin dedicated to the cult of Hercules, formerly known as the Temple of Maecenas. The artist has employed rough hatching and shading to suggest the steep craggy slopes, lush vegetation and cascades of falling water.
Compositional precedents for the view include John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), Villa of Mecenas, an engraved plate from the publication Select Views in Italy, which Turner copied in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13966; Turner Bequest CLXXII19), and a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Villa of Maecenas and Cascatelle. Tivoli 1816 (British School at Rome Library), engraved for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, published in 1819.1 Similar sketches by Turner can be seen on folio 46 verso (D15013), as well as in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15469; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 3), and the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16117; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 29).
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.3, p.226, reproduced.
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