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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner View of the Villa d'Este, Tivoli, from the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 11 Recto:
View of the Villa d’Este, Tivoli, from the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 11
Pencil and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 200 x 253 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘11’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIII 11’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
The subject of this drawing is a view of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, a sixteenth-century casino and formal Renaissance garden built for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este (1509–72), the son of Lucrezia Borgia. Turner’s viewpoint is from the north, within the ruins of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor), an ancient Roman temple, formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas. The arcade in the foreground is part of the portico of the Santuario, and the vista looks uphill towards the western perimeter of the Villa d’Este with the casino in the centre beyond.1 The left-hand side of the composition is dominated by the tall cypress trees for which the Villa d’Este is renowned, whilst the arches near the bottom right-hand corner of the casino represent the substructures of the Rometta Fountain, one of the many themed water features integrated within the design of the garden. Silhouetted against the horizon is the campanile of the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and, on the right, the towers of the Rocca Pia, Tivoli’s fifteenth-century castle. A similar prospect appears in a drawing by Turner’s friend and collaborator, James Hakewill (1778–1843), Tivoli. Part of the Villa Estense, and the Entrance to the Villa of Mecenas 1817 (British School at Rome Library).2
Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created highlights by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to delineate the sky and the architectural structures within the view.
Compare a photograph by Thomas Ashby of the same view, see Oreste Ferrari, Tea Marintelli, Valerie Scott et al., Thomas Ashby: Un Archeologo Fotografa la Campagna Romana Tra ’800 e’900, Rome 1986, p.47, no.25 fig.1.
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.5.5, p.228, reproduced.
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘352’ bottom left, and by an unknown hand in pencil ‘82’ centre

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘View of the Villa d’Este, Tivoli, from the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore 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-view-of-the-villa-deste-tivoli-from-the-santuario-di-ercole-r1137752, accessed 25 May 2024.