Joseph Mallord William Turner

View of Tivoli, from the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Graphite on paper
Support: 200 × 253 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 6

Catalogue entry

Turner’s exploration of Tivoli included a large number of landscape sketches drawn from the valley to the north. He was particularly attracted by the spectacle of the town’s ancient ruins perched above the steep, wooded gorge and streaming cascatelli (or cascatelle), the lesser cascades of the River Aniene. The subject of this drawing is a view of Tivoli looking east from the arcades of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor), a first-century BC Roman temple dedicated to the cult of Hercules, formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas. As Thomas Ashby identified, the substructures visible in the central middle distance are those which support the Piazza dell’Olmo (present-day Piazza Domenico Tani), whilst to the right is the campanile of the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Lorenzo.1 At the left-hand tip of the edge of the slopes is a medieval watch-tower which stands above the valley, and the winding course of the river. A similar view can be found on folio 32 (D15499), and in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (D15039; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 60a). 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 delineate the architecture and to depict the silvery streams of the falling water beneath the substructures of the temple. He has further enhanced the dramatic tonal contrasts by darkening the arched passageway on the right with vigorous shading and hatched lines.
The Santuario di Ercole Vincitore was one of Tivoli’s most famous landmarks and the picturesque qualities of the ruined arcades lying across the brow of the ravine had made it a popular subject for artists. This prospect of the arched gallery is reminiscent of a painting by the eighteenth-century Welsh landscape artist, Richard Wilson (1713–1782), Maecenas’s Villa, Tivoli circa 1765 (see Tate, N00303) which may have been known to Turner. A similar version of the same subject was owned by Joseph Farington (1747–1821), and later by John Constable (1776–1837).2 Further studies of the arcades beneath the Santuario can be seen on folios 9–10 and 20 (D15475–D15476 and D15486). For a fuller description and other sketches of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore see folio 5 (D15471).
Ashby 1914, p.247 and Ashby 1925, p.31.
See Martin Postle, ‘Short Text’, June 2001, <>.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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