Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Tivoli at Sunset, with the So-Called Temple of Vesta

1819

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 112 × 186 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Reference
D15002
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 41

Catalogue entry

Turner sketched this distant view of Tivoli from a point on the present-day Via Quintilio Varo, on the lower slopes of Monte Catillo, north-east of the town. In the centre of the composition is the silhouette of the so-called Temple of Vesta, perched on the edge of the steep gorge. The hasty character of the lines and the areas of hatched shading suggest that the artist was sketching at the end of the day when the light was failing and parts of the landscape were cast into deep shadow. Furthermore he has noted the ‘orange’ colour of the sky in the west and the fact that the setting sun remains brightest over ‘R[ome]’ in the far distance. The sketch is continued on the opposite sheet of the double-page spread, see folio 40 verso (D15001). Turner made several sketches from this viewpoint, see folios 40–42 verso and 87 verso (D15000–D15005 and D15092), the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15468, D15488, D15500–D15502; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 2, 22, 33–5), and in the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate D16116 and D16118; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII 28 and 30). He also repeated the vista during his 1828 visit to Tivoli, see the Roman and French sketchbook (Tate D21912; Turner Bequest CCXXXVII 35a). The composition is similar to that of an early oil painting, Tivoli and the Roman Campagna circa 1798 (Tate, N05512),1 which was itself based upon a version of a picture by the eighteenth-century Welsh artist, Richard Wilson (1713–1782), for example, Temple of the Sibyl and the Roman Campagna circa 1765–70 (Tate, T01706).
The picturesque spectacle of the ancient temple seen in its dramatic natural setting against the contre-jour of sunset, seems to have fitted Turner’s preconceived ideas about the artistic representation of Tivoli. In the bottom left-hand corner he 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. Turner’s inscription, ‘Goes the lightest over R[ome] Gaspard’, refers to the characteristic way in which the French painter would modulate the tonal properties of his views of Tivoli so that the lightest part of the composition fell on the distant view of Rome on the horizon.2 Dughet’s carefully planned Italianate compositions informed the work of Wilson, who reportedly advised studying ‘Claude for air and Gaspar for composition and sentiment’.3 Inscriptions on other pages of this sketchbook reveal that Turner also associated Tivoli with the work of both Wilson and Claude Lorrain (circa 1604/5–1682), see folios 42 and 56 (D15004 and D15030).

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

1
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.44.
2
See, for example, Gaspard Dughet, View of Tivoli with Rome in the Distance, late 1650s, (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), reproduced in Anne French, Gaspard Dughet, called Gaspar Poussin 1615–75, exhibition catalogue, Kenwood, London 1980, no.12.
3
Sir William Beechey, quoted in John Hayes, British Paintings of the Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries, Washington 1993, p.334

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