Turner sketched this distant view of Tivoli from a point on the present-day Via Quintilio Varo, on the lower slopes of Monte Catillo to the north-east of the town. Visible in the centre of the composition are the silhouettes of the so-called Temple of Vesta and Temple of the Sibyl, perched on the edge of the steep gorge. The artist has used energetic pencil lines to emphasize the textured cragginess of the gully on the right.
Similar views can be found on 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). Turner 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).
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.44.