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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Joseph Mallord William Turner View of Tivoli with the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore and the Tempio della Tosse 1819

Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Folio 5 Recto:
View of Tivoli with the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore and the Tempio della Tosse 1819
Turner Bequest CLXXXIII 5
Pencil and grey watercolour wash on white wove paper, 200 x 253 mm
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in pencil ‘5’ bottom left
Stamped in black ‘CLXXXIII 5’ bottom left, descending left-hand edge
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner’s exploration of Tivoli included a large number of landscape sketches drawn from the valley to the north. He was particularly attracted by the spectacle of the town’s ancient ruins perched above the steep, wooded gorge and streaming cascatelli (or cascatelle), the lesser cascades of the River Aniene. This study depicts the view looking from the opposite side of the valley towards the long arcades of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor), a Roman temple dating from the first century BC, dedicated to the cult of Hercules. Rising above the temple in the background is the Villa d’Este and the campanile of the adjacent Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, whilst on the horizon to the right can be seen one of the towers of the Rocca Pia, Tivoli’s fifteenth-century fortress. The small domed structure on the far right-hand side of the composition meanwhile is the so-called Tempio della Tosse (Temple of the Cough), believed to be the vestibule of a Roman villa. Like many drawings within this sketchbook, the composition has been executed over a washed grey background. Turner has created highlights within the work by rubbing or lifting out the wash to reveal the white paper beneath, principally to create the silvery streams of the cascades below the substructures of the temple.
Formerly known as the Villa of Maecenas, the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore was one of Tivoli’s most famous landmarks and its picturesque qualities had made it a popular subject for artists. Revd John Chetwode Eustace in A Classical Tour Through Italy, first published in 1813, recommended the view from the opposite side of the valley where ‘the towers of the town rising on the top of the hill beyond the cascade, with the ruins of Maecenas’s villa on its shelving side, form one of the most delicious pictures for softness and beauty, wildness and animation, that can be imagined.’1 He described the temple as Turner would have seen it:
Maecenas’s villa [Santuario di Ercole Vincitore] stands at the extremity of the town on the brow of the hill and hangs over several streamlets which fall down the steep. It commands a noble view of the Anio [Aniene] and its vale beneath, the hills of Albano and Monticelli, the Campagna, and Rome itself rising on the borders of the horizon. It still presents several traces of its former magnificence, such as a triple row of arches, seventeen below and fourteen above ... The active Cardinal Ruffo during the reign of the late pontiff, turned it into a foundry, after having stripped the walls and the roof of the ivy, and effaced the venerable marks of ruin which the hand of time had shed over them. A branch of the river pours through the arched gallery and vaulted cellars, and shaking the edifice as it passes along, rushes in several sheets down the declivity.2
The Santuario features in many of Turner’s 1819 sketches looking both up and down the valley, see folios 7, 8 ,16, 21, 26, 36, 40, 41a and 58a (D15473, D15474, D15482, D15487, D15493, D15503, D15507, D15509, D15530), and he also made detailed tonal studies of the architecture and the arched passageway underneath the substructures, see folios 6, 9, 10 and 20 (D15472, D15475, D15476 and D15486). Similar views to this study with the cascatelli can be seen on folios 36 and 58 verso (D15503 and D15530), and in the Tivoli and Rome sketchbook (Tate D15031; Turner Bequest CLXXIX 56 verso). It was the vista from the north-east, however, which seems to have held the most enduring visual appeal for the artist and which was ultimately developed within more finished work, see folio 3 (D15469).
John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour Through Italy, London 1815, 3rd edition, vol.II, pp.237–9.
Ibid., pp.240–1.
Blank, except for traces of grey watercolour wash
Inscribed by ?John Ruskin in red ink ‘341’ bottom left

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘View of Tivoli with the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore and the Tempio della Tosse 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-tivoli-with-the-santuario-di-ercole-vincitore-and-r1137746, accessed 19 May 2024.