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View of the Acqua Acetosa
Private Collection, England
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
View of the Acqua Acetosa
c.1752-53 (undated)
Oil on canvas in carved wood frame
56.6 x 99 cm
22 1/4 x 39 in.
Private Collection, England
P53A
In the foreground of a serene riverscape framed by trees and backed by silvery mountains a group of men are playing bowls - a contemporary point of reference, in contrast to the overall grandeur of the composition and its intellectual and historical references. More distant figures are strenuously engaged in towing a barge at the edge of the Tiber and a seated figure is drawing in the peaceful enclave of the Edicola.
Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania, USA., May - July 1962 (48); 1998-2010 on loan to No 1 Royal Crescent, Bath
With Frank & Co., London; with Norman Hirschl & Adler Gallery, New York, by 1953; bt Columbus Museum of Arts & Crafts, Columbus, Georgia, U.S.A. in 1953 (inv. no. 53.75); Sotheby's New York, 22 May 1997 (108), bt Lawrence Pratt; Sotheby's London 15 July 1998 (60); with Simon Dickinson, London; Sotheby's New York, 6 June 2012 (66); private collection, England; Christie's London, 6 July 2018 (207)
Unsigned; no inscription
Figures in the left centre have a feel of Teniers but the colouring overall tends to the rococo. The trees at the right have been painted into reserves, while those in the left background look forward to Wilson's consummate renderings of suffused light through foliage in later works.
[1] Stretcher upper left, red chalk: 53.75
[2] Lining upper left, red chalk: No. 75:
The Acqua Acetosa is a spring famous for containing iron and tasting acidic (acetosa) at the foot of Mount Parioli, then just to the north of Rome. The spring was located near a beach of the Tiber and it was surrounded by trees, so was attractive to visitors, including Goethe, who recorded excursions there in 1787. The building to the left is the fountain, the Edicola, traditionally attributed to Bernini but more probably by Andrea Sacchi, and constructed to cover the spring in 1658-65. It is still standing and has recently been restored, though the area has long been subsumed into Rome.
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[1] Giuseppe Vasi, Fonte dell'Acqua Acetosa, etching, 1754
[2] Francis Towne (1739-1816): Banks of the Tiber, near Ponte Molle, watercolour, 1780, The British Museum (Nn,2.4)
[3] J.M.W. Turner, The River Tiber, Rome, with the Fontana dell'Acqua Acetosa and the Ponte Molle, graphite, 1819, St Peter's Sketchbook, fol. 39 a, Tate, London (D16225; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 39 a)
The view is downstream towards Rome. The work contains much that is prophetic of the later Wilson, such as the motifs of the artist drawing at the fountain, the three straining figures to the right, the half-concealed figures by the mast in the centre, the prominent boulder in the right foreground and the milestone at the far left. The facture is uneven and stylistically unintegrated, indicating that this must be an early, experimental work by the artist, dating from the time when he was beginning to see himself as a landscapist rather than a portraitist. The work is intended primarily as decorative, perhaps as an overdoor - an almost capricciesque arrangement of architectural motifs, including a reminiscence of the Roman Temple of Hercules Victor in the centre middle distance.
WGC, p. 240, Addendum; Connoisseur, CXXXIII, March 1954, p. 69, repr. p. 68; Constable 1954, p. 144, no. 4, fig. 15
Sight size: 56 x 100 cm. Crackle over much of painted surface but otherwise seems sound. Pentimento lower centre foreground.
01/06/2020