Turner’s exploration of Tivoli included a large number of landscape sketches drawn from the valley to the north. This sketch depicts a view of the town from the banks of the River Aniene looking east, an area now dominated by an electrical power plant. The town is silhouetted along the brow of the hill above. Visible landmarks include from left to right: a medieval watch-tower; the substructures supporting the Piazza dell’Olmo (present-day Piazza Domenico Tani); the campanile of the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Lorenzo; the tower of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor), a ruined Roman temple formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas; and on the far left, the Villa d’Este, with the adjacent campanile of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The ruined bridge in the foreground may be the Ponte dell’Acquoria (Bridge of the Golden Water), which carried the ancient Via Tiburtina over the River Aniene, (see Tate D15012; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 46), whilst the second set of arches immediately behind represents another nearby crossing. A more detailed study of the latter can be seen on folio 21 (D15487). Similar views can be seen on folios 7, 8, 16, 26, and 41a (D15473, D15474, D15482, D15493, D15509), and in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15033; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 57 verso).
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 elements of the architecture and the curve of the river.