Turner repeatedly drew the ancient ruins of Tivoli perched above the steep, wooded gorge and streaming waterfalls at the northern edge of town. This study depicts the view looking east from the floor of the valley towards the long arcades of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor), a ruined Roman temple dedicated to the cult of Hercules. Visible to the left is the campanile of the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Lorenzo and the arcades supporting the Piazza dell’Olmo (present-day Piazza Domenico Tani), whilst to the right is the campanile of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, near the Villa d’Este. The drawing spills over onto the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 58 (D15034).
Formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas, the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore was one of Tivoli’s most popular picturesque motifs. It features in many of Turner’s 1819 sketches looking both up and down the valley, and he also made detailed tonal studies of the architecture and the arched passageway underneath the ruin’s substructures (see for example Tate D15486; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 20). Similar sketches to this vista can be seen in the Tivoli sketchbook (see Tate D15472–D15473, D15482, D15493, D15508–D15509; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 6–7, 16, 26, 41–41a). It was the view from the north-east, however, which seems to have held the most enduring visual appeal for the artist and which was ultimately explored within more finished work, see folio 46 verso (D15013).