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Torre delle Grotte near Naples
Private Collection, Yorkshire / Photograph by Jerry Hardman-Jones
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Torre delle Grotte near Naples
1758-59 (undated)
47 x 72.4 cm
18 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.
Private Collection, Yorkshire
View of caves cut into a cliff-face, with a square tower on the height and a stone arch projecting into the sea on the left. This side of the bay, men in a small barge can be seen in the left foreground and there are other sailing craft in the distance. Before the sea-arch is a triangular platform for mooring or to act as a buoy.
York, Masterpieces form Yorkshire Houses, 1951 (51); Leicester 1953 (79); London, Royal Academy, Italian Art and Britain, 1960 (162); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (78)
Probably bt by Sir William St Quintin 4th Baronet (c.1700-1770); by descent to Mrs M. L'Estrange Malone; thence by descent
Signed on the rock lower right: RW [monogram, the R reversed]
Saturated colours with sumptuous blues in the sky, painted over a standard pale ground. It seems possible that the rocks to the left of the arches have been extended to cover some of the lower parts of the tower and adjacent buildings.
[1] On upper horizontal member of frame in black ink in an old hand: 64
It has recently been shown by Simon and Postle that the scene is of Torregaveta, a craggy outcrop on the Phlegraean peninsula to the east of Naples. Close to Baiae, Cumae and the volcanic lakes of Fusaro and Avernus, it had many classical associations. At the summit of the cliffs was the ruin of a villa fortress constructed by the Roman consul, Servilius Vatia (c.122 44 BC). The tower of the villa was still prominent in the 18th century but was damaged in the Second World, by which time the rock face and the arches had also been much eroded.
D207 Torre delle Grotte, near Naples Tate, London (T09300)
E35 William Hodges after Wilson, Twelve Etchings of Views in Italy - Torre Delle Grotte near Naples, 1776, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven (B1977.14.21011(d)) and other impressions
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Pendant P82 Bridge of Augustus at Rimini, Private Collection, Yorkshire
The monogram signature of this work is simpler and more conventional than that of its pendant. The sunset at the left is subtly rendered with diagonal rays ascending through the roseate glow in prefigurement of Turner. Behind the rocks dark storm clouds are gathering as evening draws on apace. In counterpoint to it is the diagonal formed by the succession of boats receding towards the horizon. In the foreground there is some ambiguity in the extent of the sea towards the shoreline and rocks. The composition is unusual among Wilson's Italian views of this period as it has no overt references to antiquity or to Claude but seems to have been chosen rather for its picturesque qualities, thus corresponding with works painted after Wilson's return to England, in its more realistic rendition of natural details and romantic picturesque qualities.
E.K. Waterhouse, 'Exhibitions of Old Masters at Newcastle, York and Perth', Burlington Magazine, vol. 93, August 1951, pp. 262 & 264, no. 20; WGC, p. 199, pl. 78a (version 2)
Either this painting or its pendant, span class="italic">The Bridge at Rimini (see 'Related Paintings' above), is alluded to in an account book of the collection in an entry under the year 1759: 'A Picture Wilson 13 gns'.
New relining. In original gilt frame.Kate Lowry has noted:
Original support simple weave, medium weight, linen canvas. Paste lined onto similar weight linen canvas by A.R.Burt who inscribed the lining reverse: 'Cleaned, lined and repaired by AR Burt Chester 1837'. Original turnovers removed at the time of relining. Four member stretcher without keys probably dates from relining. The vection cracks run along the inside edges of the present stretcher bars except at the top edge where the distance between the top of the stretcher bar and the crack is 25mm narrower. This suggests that the size of the original canvas has been reduced slightly along the top when relined. Dark grey ground, probably commercially prepared. The half tones of the flesh are the exposed grey of the ground. The painting has recently been cleaned and under UV light residues of old varnish are visible around margins. There are minor retouches around the left side of the face and in the tie and stock of the sitter. The retouching medium fluoresces a bluish colour so the sitter's black tie looks blue under UV light. There is a large retouch at lower left in the fictive oval. Otherwise the painting is in good condition.