The subject of this sketch is a view of Tivoli from the so-called Temple of Vesta, a circular ruin dating from the first century BC, which stands on the edge of the gorge at the northern edge of the town. Part of the temple is visible on the far left-hand side of the composition, including two of the surviving Corinthian columns and the door of the inner cella. Turner’s high vantage point appears to be from the window of an inn known as ‘La Sibilla’, which stood immediately adjacent to the Temple.1 A similar view is the near-contemporaneous drawing by Turner’s collaborator, James Hakewill (1778–1843), Of the temple of the Sibyl etc. from the window of the ‘Locanda della Sibilla’ 1816 (British School at Rome Library).2 In his travel publication, A Classical Tour Through Italy, Revd John Chetwode Eustace recorded that the innkeeper of this establishment accepted an offer from Lord Bristol, Bishop of Derry (1730–1803), to purchase the temple and remove it to England, although the sale was ultimately prohibited by the government.3 Several figures, some in native costume, can be seen grouped around the base of the ruin and provide a sense of scale. For a detailed discussion of the Temple of Vesta and related studies see the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate D15513; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 44a).
The prospect looks south-east across the gorge of the Valle d’Inferno (Valley of Hell) towards the heights of Monte Catillo on the left. Visible at the foot of the hill is the gate of Porta Cornuta with its medieval battlements (near present-day Piazzale Massimo). On the right-hand side of the view, the River Aniene curves its way through the town towards its former falling point, the ‘Grand Cascade’, caused by the dramatic descent of the waters into the valley. On the opposite side of the ravine is Santa Maria del Ponte, a church which stood at one end of the bridge overlooking the waterfall, the Ponte San Rocco. Both the church and the bridge were demolished during the works to divert the course of the river away from the residential district following a flood in 1826.
See Mariana Starke, Travels in Europe between the years 1824 and 1828, London 1828, p.253.
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.5.9, p.234, reproduced.
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.231–2.
John Ruskin, Catalogue of the Drawings and Sketches by J.M.W. Turner at Present Exhibited in the National Gallery, Orpington 1881, in Cook and Wedderburn (eds.), vol.XIII, p.379.