Joseph Mallord William Turner

Tomb of the Plautii and Ponte Lucano with a Distant View of Tivoli


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 29

Catalogue entry

This sketch represents a distant view of Tivoli from a point near the Tomb of the Plautius family (or Tomb of the Plautii), a first-century circular funerary monument, which stands on the Via Valeria approximately two miles west of the town. The tomb can be seen in the bottom right-hand corner of the composition, with the adjacent crossing over the River Aniene, the Ponte Lucano. Turner made over twenty other variant studies of the site, see folio 27 verso (D14975). Nestled amongst the hills on the left is Tivoli, and Turner has noted the proliferation of olive trees on the slopes ascending to the town. The two prominent campanili, or bell-towers, belong to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo on the left, and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore on the right.
Turner’s inscribed notes within the background on the left-hand side probably refer to the widely held supposition that the famous classical poets, Horace and Catullus, at one time owned villas in Tivoli. Turner would have been familiar with this theory through his reading of the popular guidebook A Classical Tour Through Italy by Revd John Chetwode Eustace.1 Indeed, notes from the relevant passage appear within the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13952; Turner Bequest CLXXII 11a).

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

Revd John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.232–262.

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