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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Three Views of the Tomb of the Plautii and Distant Mountains, near Tivoli 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 28 Recto:
Three Views of the Tomb of the Plautii and Distant Mountains, near Tivoli 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXIX 28
Pencil on white wove paper, 112 x 186 mm
Inscribed by the artist in pencil ‘West’ top right, ‘the other side east’ within middle sketch, and ‘Sheep and Ruins’ bottom left of lower sketch
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in blue ink ‘28’ top right
Stamped in black ‘CLXXIX 28’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This page contains three landscape sketches seen on the road between Rome and Tivoli. The structure in the bottom left-hand corner is the Tomb of the Plautius family (or Tomb of the Plautii), a cylindrical first-century funerary monument of Travertine stone, which stands on the Via Valeria, approximately two miles west of Tivoli. When travelling on the road from Rome to Tivoli it was one of the first sights to relieve the featureless plain of the Campagna, and, in conjunction with the adjacent Ponte Lucano, it represented a popular subject for artists. Turner himself made over twenty variant studies during his visit to Tivoli, see folio 27 verso (D14975). The twenty-mile journey would have been covered by carriage. However, the large number of sketches of the bridge and Plautian tomb indicates that Turner was afforded enough time to fully explore the site from a number of different angles, on foot, as well as from the road.
This particular view shows the approach from the western bank of the River Aniene, with the tomb on the far left and the arches of the bridge just visible below. Today the area is very built up but in Turner’s day it presented a far more remote and picturesque prospect, as indicated by his written annotation ‘Sheep and Ruins’.1 The artist has also sketched the distant line of the Tiburtini mountains beyond, looking respectively west (or left) at the top, and east (right) in the middle.

Nicola Moorby
January 2010

Today the tomb stands adjacent to a petrol station.

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Three Views of the Tomb of the Plautii and Distant Mountains, near Tivoli 1819 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, January 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-three-views-of-the-tomb-of-the-plautii-and-distant-mountains-r1137608, accessed 01 April 2020.