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

ISBN 978-1-84976-386-8

Tivoli to Rome sketchbook 1819

Turner Bequest CLXXIX
Sketchbook with paper-covered boards bound with a red leather spine, and a brass clasp [missing]
92 leaves of white wove writing paper, approximate page size 112 x 186 mm
Made by William Allee, Hurstbourne Prior Mill, Hampshire; various pages watermarked ‘ALLEE | 1813’
Inscribed by the artist in black ink on the spine ‘6 Tivoli Raffele’s Logi | Castello St Ange’ (see D40924) and on the back cover ‘Tivoli | Raffaelo’s Logi, Castello St Ange’ top centre right (see D40927).
Inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil on the front cover ‘CLXXIX’ top right and stamped in black ‘CLXXIX’ top right.
Inside back cover is numbered ‘332’ as part of the Turner Schedule in 1854 and endorsed by the Executors of the Turner Bequest, inscribed in black ink ‘N332 Contains 89 leaves. Pencil Sketches | on both sides. C. Turner’ and initialled in pencil by Charles Lock Eastlake ‘C.L.E.’ and John Prescott Knight, ‘JPK’ top centre. Also inscribed by an unknown hand in pencil ‘CLXXIX 563’ top right.
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner used this sketchbook during his first tour of Italy in 1819, one of twenty-three related to that trip. As the artist’s own labels on the front cover and spine indicate, the contents largely comprise views of Tivoli and Rome. It is one of nine sketchbooks employed during his stay in the capital, which aside from some weeks spent travelling to Naples and Paestum, lasted from early October to December or early January 1820.1 Aside from a handful of views of the Castel Sant’Angelo and the exterior of the Vatican, the Rome sketches all relate to a focused exploration of the Vatican loggie, specifically the so-called Loggia of Raphael, see folios 13 verso–21 verso and 24–26 (D14955–D14966 and D14969–D14972). From these drawings evolved the artist’s first exhibited oil painting following his Italian tour, the vast canvas Rome from the Vatican. Raffaelle Accompanied by La Fornarina, Preparing his Pictures for the Decoration of the Loggia 1820 (Tate, N00503).2
The remainder of the sketchbook documents Turner’s trip to Tivoli, a town situated amidst the mountains, twenty miles east of Rome. An alluring combination of dramatic landscape, ancient architecture and classical sites, it was considered an essential component of the ‘Grand Tour’ itinerary and could be reached within a four-hour carriage drive from the Eternal City.3 Steeped in history, the town was famous as the summer retreat of Emperors Trajan, Hadrian and Augustus, as well as Horace and Catullus who described its beauties in poetry. It had also become one of the most popular destinations for artists in Italy. As Charlotte Eaton wrote in 1820:
words are insufficient to convey an idea of the beauties and varieties of Nature. The pencil only can describe Tivoli; and though unlike other scenes, the beauty of which is generally exaggerated in picture, no representation has done justice to it – it is yet impossible that some part of its peculiar charms should not be transferred upon the canvas. It seem almost as though Nature had herself turned painter, when she viewed this beautiful and perfect composition.4
With its picturesque ruins, wooded hills, panoramic views across the Roman Campagna, and most strikingly of all, the River Aniene (known in Latin as the Anio) plunging in multiple cascades into the valleys and gorges surrounding the town, Tivoli was a landscape painter’s dream. Most readily associated with the seventeenth-century French masters, Claude Lorrain (circa 1604/5–82) and Gaspard Dughet (known as Gaspar Poussin, 1615–1675), during the eighteenth century it had attracted numerous British artists, including Richard Wilson (1713–1782) and the generation of watercolourists preceding Turner, such as Jacob More (1740–1793), Francis Towne (1740–1816), Thomas Jones (1742–1803) and John Robert Cozens (1752–1797). Turner, who in his youth had copied several Tivoli subjects by other artists, was well aware of the artistic heritage (see for example, Dr Monro’s Album of Italian Views, Tate; Turner Bequest CCCLXXIII). The year before embarking upon his first tour of Italy he exhibited an imaginary view in watercolour at the Royal Academy, Landscape, Composition of Tivoli exhibited 1818 (private collection).5 It may have been this painting which Turner’s fellow Academician, Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) recalled during his own visit to Tivoli in the summer of 1819.6 Whilst most tourists recalled the paintings of Claude and Dughet, the landscape of Tivoli had forcibly reminded Lawrence of Turner, and he wrote to a friend:
Such a union of the highly and varied picturesque, the beautiful, grand and sublime, in scenery and effect, I hardly imagined could exist ... it is infinitely beyond every conception I had formed of it, although so many fine pictures, by Gaspar and others, have been painted from it. The only person who, comparatively, could do it justice would be Turner, who (I write the true impression on my eye and on my mind) approaches, in the highest BEAUTIES of his noble works, nearer to the fine lines of composition, to the effects, and exquisite combinations of colour, in the country through which I have passed, and that is now before me, than even Claude himself.7
Tivoli, therefore, possessed a natural appeal for Turner and during his own 1819 Italian tour he devoted a significant amount of energy to exploring its sights and scenery. The expedition possibly took place in early October just prior to his departure from Rome to Naples,8 and judging by the large number of on-the-spot pencil studies in this sketchbook, must have lasted at least a couple of days. He covered all of the significant places of interest including the Tomb of the Plautii and the Ponte Lucano, the archaeological complex of the Villa Adriana, the Renaissance gardens of the Villa d’Este, the fifteenth-century castle, the Rocca Pia, and the Ponte San Rocco. He also made a small detour to see the ruined aqueducts at Ponte degli Arci, on the road towards Castel Madama and Subiaco, see folios 84 verso–86 verso (D15086–D15090). In accordance with an inscription in the Route to Rome sketchbook (Tate D13911; Turner Bequest CLXXI 28), Cecilia Powell has suggested that Turner may have taken a circular route back to Rome by way of Subiaco and Palestrina.9 However, there are no known views to support this and instead the scanty visual evidence within the sketchbook appears to point to a return journey by the same road as the outward trek, see folio 60 (D15038).
By far the largest number of sketches in Tivoli were devoted to the town’s most famous landmarks: the so-called Temple of Vesta and the ‘Grand Cascade’ of the River Aniene, and the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore (known in Turner’s day as the Villa of Maecenas), with the cascatelli (or cascatelle), the lesser cascades which streamed from underground channels into the steep valley to the north of the town. He repeatedly drew these two sites from a variety of viewpoints including the eastern heights of Monte Catillo, the floor of the valley near Ponte Acquoria, and from various locations on the road skirting the end of the valley such as the Convent of San Antonio and the Santuario di Quintiliolo (Church of the Madonna of Quintiliolo). He relished the way that the architecture appeared to be hanging above the gorge, and he frequently chose a low viewpoint looking up, or a high viewpoint looking across or down, which enabled him to explore spatial depth and perspective.
The majority of views in the sketchbook are swift outline drawings with a focus on recording the topography of the landscape. However, Turner was also engaged by the experience and atmosphere of Tivoli. Some of the sketches of the cascades and the steep slopes of the valley attempt to capture the character of the terrain with expressive looping lines, hatching or softer shading, and written on-the-spot annotations reveal that he was mentally recalling the celebrated prospects of Claude Lorrain (circa 1604/5–1682), Gaspard Dughet (1615–1675) and Richard Wilson (1713–1782), see for example folio 41 (D15002). As in Rome and Naples he was also inspired to experiment with different media, and many of the vistas within this sketchbook are revisited in more detailed tonal or colour compositions in the Tivoli sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXIII) and the Naples: Rome C. Studies sketchbook (Tate; Turner Bequest CLXXXVII).
Tivoli appears to have represented a highlight of Turner’s Italian travels, being one of the key locations mentioned to Joseph Farington the day after his return to London in 1820.10 He was also inspired enough to make a second visit to the town during his 1828 trip to Rome (see the Roman and French sketchbook, Tate; Turner Bequest CCXXXVII). Yet the large accumulated amount of sketchbook material resulted in no immediate studio paintings and very little finished work of significance. A couple of colour beginnings speculatively dated 1820 may represent the intention to produce a topographical view, see a sheet in the Turner Bequest (Tate D17185; Turner Bequest CXCVI U) and Tivoli (Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester).11 However, it is not possible to conclusively link either study to the period after the 1819 tour. The first and only finished Tivoli watercolour was the conventional scene of the Temple of Vesta produced as a vignette illustration for Rogers’s Italy, 1830 (Tate D27683; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 166). Turner also seems to have been consistently interested by the view of the Santuario di Ercole Vincitore seen from the north-east. He considered developing this motif for Rogers’s Italy (see Tate D27605; Turner Bequest CCLXXX 88) and ultimately explored a similar composition within an oil sketch, Tivoli, the Cascatelle circa 1827–8 (Tate, N03388) and an unfinished painting, Tivoli: Tobias and the Angel circa 1835 (Tate, N02067).12 Tivolean elements may also be discerned in paintings such as Modern Italy, the Pifferari exhibited 1838 (Glasgow Museums)13, and The Rape of Proserpine or Pluto Carrying off Proserpine exhibited 1839 (National Gallery of Art, Washington).14
The other sketchbooks containing Roman subjects are Albano, Nemi, Rome (CLXXXII), Vatican Fragments (CLXXX), Naples: Rome C. Studies (CLXXXVII), St Peter’s (CLXXXVIIII), Rome: C. Studies (CLXXXIX), Small Roman C. Studies (CXC), Rome and Florence sketchbook (CXCI), and Remarks (Italy) (CXCIII) (all Tate, Turner Bequest). Despite its title, the Naples, Paestum and Rome (CLXXXVI) sketchbook does not appear to contain any views of the city and the Route to Rome sketchbook (CLXXI) contains notes but no identified sketches.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, no.228.
Mariana Starke, Travels in Europe between the years 1824 and 1828, London 1828, p.255.
Charlotte Eaton, Rome in the Nineteenth Century, Edinburgh 1820, vol.3, p.339.
Wilton 1979, no.495. See also engraving after Turner by Edward Goodall (Tate, T04502).
See Powell 1987, p.75.
Thomas Lawrence, letter to Samuel Lysons, June 1819, quoted in Powell 1987, p.74.
See Powell 1987, p.75.
Powell 1984, p.331.
An entry in Farington’s diary for Wednesday 2 February 1820 reads ‘Turner returned from Italy yesterday; had been absent 6 months to a day – Tivoli, Venice, Albano – Terni – fine’. Quoted Powell 1987, p.78.
Wilton 1979, no.695.
Martin Butlin and Evelyn Joll, The Paintings of J.M.W. Turner, revised ed., New Haven and London 1984, nos.311 and 437.
Ibid., no.374.
Butlin and Joll 1984, no.380.

Nicola Moorby
February 2010

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How to cite

Nicola Moorby, ‘Tivoli to Rome sketchbook 1819’, sketchbook, 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/tivoli-to-rome-sketchbook-r1137562, accessed 21 June 2024.