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 waterfalls. This study depicts the view looking west from the road which skirts the end of the valley. The spur of land on the left represents the point where part of the River Aniene flowed from an underground passage and emerged in cascades (cascatelli or cascatelle) down the slopes. Silhouetted along the brow of the hill above is the campanile of the Cathedral (Duomo) of San Lorenzo and a medieval watch-tower which stands near the Piazza dell’Olmo (present-day Piazza Domenico Tani). In the distance, the river meanders through the flat plain of the Campagna, and just visible on the far horizon is the dome of St Peter’s in Rome. Unlike the watercolour or tonal studies on grey watercolour wash elsewhere in this sketchbook, Turner’s focus here is the accurate mapping of Tivoli’s topography with no indication of naturalistic or atmospheric effects.
Compositional precedents for the view include John ‘Warwick’ Smith (1749–1831), Villa of Mecenas, an engraved plate from the publication Select Views in Italy, which Turner copied in the Italian Guide Book sketchbook (see Tate D13966; Turner Bequest CLXXII19), and a drawing by James Hakewill (1778–1843), Villa of Maecenas and Cascatelle. Tivoli 1816 (British School at Rome Library), engraved for Hakewill’s Picturesque Tour of Italy, published in 1819.1 Similar sketches by Turner can be seen in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15013; Turner Bequest CLXXIX), and in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15469 Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 3).
Tony Cubberley and Luke Herrmann, Twilight of the Grand Tour: A Catalogue of the drawings by James Hakewill in the British School at Rome Library, Rome 1992, no.5.3, p.226, reproduced.
Blank except for traces of watercolour; stamped in black ‘CLXXXVII 29’ and Turner Bequest monogram bottom left