J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Interior of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 9 Recto:
Interior of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 9
Pencil and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 200 x 253 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘9’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIII 9’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The subject of this drawing is an interior view of the ruins of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules Victor), a Roman ruin on the outskirts of Tivoli dating from the first century BC. Formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas, it is in fact a large temple complex dedicated to the cult of Hercules. The rough and dark nature of the sketch makes it difficult to identify the details but it probably represents the Via Tecta, a gallery or tunnel which carried the ancient Via Tiburtina beneath the substructures of the Santuario, and which was originally used for herding and selling livestock.1 Part of it is still extant, although the surviving remnants of the temple have been much altered by industrial use of the site between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries.2 Alternatively, the view may also depict the vaulted spaces of the interior above the gallery.3 Visual precedents for the subject include etchings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) for the Veduta di Roma,4 and a watercolour by Louis Ducros (1748–1810), The Stables of the Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli (Stourhead, The Hoare Collection, The National Trust).5 Turner could have seen views by both artists in the collection of his early patron, Sir Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead.
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background and Turner has effectively exploited the tonal properties of the paper to create an atmospheric study. He has created highlights by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to depict the daylight beyond the arched openings. He has further enhanced the dramatic chiaroscuro by describing areas of deep shadow with vigorous hatching with soft, dark pencil. Related studies can be found on folios 10 and 20 (D15476 and D15486). Turner also made a large number of sketches of the exterior of the Santuario, see folio 5 (D15471).
See Barbro Santillo Frizell and Jonathan Westin, ‘Displaying Via Tecta: visualisation and communication’, in Hans Bjur and Barbro Santillo Frizell (eds.), Via Tiburtina: Space, Movement and Artefacts in the Urban Landscape, Stockholm 2009, pp.[219–21].
See Anna Maria Reggiani, Tivoli: Il Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Milan 1998, figs.15 and 24, ‘Ingresso attuale della via tecta, frutto della risistemazione tardo-ottocentesca a cura della “Societa per le Forze Idrauliche e gli Usi Industriali e Agricoli’.
Compare an engraving by Luigi Rossini (1790–1857) of the façade of the church of Santa Maria del Passo above the gallery of the Via Tecta, 1856, reproduced in Barbro Santillo Frizell, ‘Changing Pastures’, in Bjur and Frizell (eds.) 2009, fig.11, p.52.
Veduta interna della Villa di Mecenate and Altra veduta interna della Villa di Mecenate in Tivoli, see Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, Köln and London 2000, nos.944 and 955, reproduced pp.726 and 732.
See Pierre Chessex, Lindsay Stainton, Luc Boissanas et al, Images of the Grand Tour: Louis Ducros 1748–1810, exhibition catalogue, Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood 1985, no.69, and David Solkin (ed.), Turner and the Masters, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, no.5, reproduced in colour.
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘362’ bottom left, and by an unknown hand in pencil ‘81’ top centre

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Interior of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore, Tivoli 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, February 2010, in David Blayney Brown (ed.), J.M.W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours, Tate Research Publication, December 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/jmw-turner/joseph-mallord-william-turner-interior-of-the-santuario-di-ercole-vincitore-tivoli-r1137750, accessed 20 May 2024.