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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner Tivoli, for Rogers's 'Italy' c.1826-7

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Tivoli, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ circa 1826–7
Turner Bequest CCLXXX 166
Gouache, pencil and watercolour, approximately 114 x 130 mm on white wove paper, 242 x 299 mm
Inscribed by the artist in brown ink ‘[?Temple] VESTA’ within tablet bottom right of vignette
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 166’ bottom right
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
This vignette appears as the head-piece to the thirty-fifth section of Rogers’s Italy, entitled ‘The Fire-Fly’.1 It was engraved by John Pye (1782–1874), who was paid £35 each for his engravings after Tivoli and Paestum (see Tate D27665; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 148).2 The high price that Pye’s work commanded reflected his rank as one of the most important engravers of his day.3 Most of the other engravers of Italy vignettes were only paid 20 guineas.
Tivoli bears no direct relationship to the text with which it is paired, which is essentially an ode to the firefly:
There is an Insect, that, when Evening comes,
Small tho’ he be and scarce distinguishable,
Like Evening clad in soberest livery,
Unsheaths his wings and thro’ the woods and glades
Scatters a marvellous splendour. On he wheels,
Blazing by fits as from excess of joy,
Each gush of light a gush of ecstasy;
Nor unaccompanied; thousands that fling
A radiance all their own, not of the day,
Thousands as bright as he, from dusk till dawn,
Soaring, descending.
(Italy, pp.166–7)
Although Tivoli cannot be linked clearly to the content of these verses, the calm, peaceful tone of the scene provides a fine complement to Rogers’s text. Turner here presents a view of the landscape and waterfall with the circular so-called Temple of Vesta (also known as the Temple of the Tiburtine Sibyl) in Tivoli. In the lower right-hand corner, he has included a stone inscribed with the word ‘Vesta’, a reference to the aforementioned temple. Jan Piggott suggests that the name may also allude to the sacred fire which burned eternally in the Temple of Vesta in the Roman Forum.4 Extinction of the flame was believed to portend general disaster for Rome. Turner produced a preliminary study of another Tivoli subject, the Villa of Maecenas with the Campagna in the distance (see Tate D27605; CCLXXX 88). However, this view was rejected in favour of the more conventional composition seen here.
As a young man, Turner had collaborated with Thomas Girtin on several views of Tivoli, including one view of the Temple of the Sibyl that bears some similarities to this later vignette (see Tate D36535; Turner Bequest CCCLXXV 14). He also produced many sketches of the temple during his 1819 visit to Italy, some of which may have served as models for this composition (see Tate D15074, D15076; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 77a, 78a; Tate D15468, D15484, D15511, D15512; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 2, 18, 43, 44). However, perhaps the closest resemblance can be found in his thumbnail sketch of the view of Tivoli by John ‘Warwick’ Smith that Turner copied from Select Views in Italy, 1792–6 prior to his first Italian tour (see Tate D13966, Turner Bequest CLXXII 19).
Tivoli, home to many great Roman historical figures, was perhaps best known as the location of Hadrian’s famous villa, which Turner visited in 1819. The town’s plentiful historical associations as well as its natural beauty made it an ideal subject for Rogers’s Italy. As such, it is also especially well matched with the picturesque view of Perugia that appears as an end-piece to this section (see Tate D27661; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 144). It may be that Rogers intended these two quintessential Italian landscape views to complement the passage that followed ‘The Fire-fly’, which contains his reflections on the nature and benefits of foreign travel.
Cecilia Powell has noted that the faint pencil lines drawn around this vignette were made by the engravers during the process of squaring-up the designs for reduction.5
Samuel Rogers, Italy, London 1830, p.166.
W.G. Rawlinson, The Engraved Work of J.M.W. Turner, R.A., vol.II, London 1913, no.365. There are two impressions in Tate’s collection (T04657 and T04658).
Piggott 1993, p.28.
Ibid., p.37.
Powell 1983, p.10.
Inscribed by unknown hands in pencil ‘18’ top left and ‘13 | a’ centre right and ‘CCLXXX.166’ bottom centre and ‘D.27683’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CCLXXX 166’ centre

Meredith Gamer
August 2006

How to cite

Meredith Gamer, ‘Tivoli, for Rogers’s ‘Italy’ c.1826–7 by Joseph Mallord William Turner’, catalogue entry, August 2006, 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-tivoli-for-rogerss-italy-r1133318, accessed 22 June 2021.