The Villa of Maecenas occupied a particularly lofty position in the esteem of British grand tourists. Maecenas, who commissioned the Georgics from Virgil and had given Horace Sabine Farm, was perceived as one of the most important Roman patrons of the arts. However his luxurious way of life brought to mind the decadence and excess understood to have brought around the fall of Rome. Therefore the ruins of his villa denoted both the cultural highpoint of a classical civilisation and simultaneously the cause of that civilisation's downfall.
The leading Roman landscape painters of the 18th Century, Claude and Poussin, visited Tivoli to paint the countryside, and the area was the subject of many pictures by Jacob More. The picture relates to More's The Falls at Tivoli, with the Villa of Maecenas, and an artist sketching in the foreground sold in the Mere Hall sale of 23 May 1994 (lot 240). The central standing figure may be Jonas Brooke, who died soon after commissioning the paintings for Mere Hall.