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The Summons of Cincinnatus
Private Collection, England
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Summons of Cincinnatus
1752 (undated)
Oil on canvas
74 x 99.6 cm
29 1/8 x 39 3/16 in.
Private Collection, England
P55
BI 1853 (150 - lent Earl of Wicklow); London, J.A Tooth Galleries May 1951 (9 repr.); Norwich 1958 (59); London Arts Council, The Age of Neo-Classicism, 1972 (277)
Commissioned 1752 in Rome by Ralph Howard, later Viscount Wicklow; Earls of Wicklow; sold with the contents of Shelton Abbey, Arklow, Ireland, Sotheby's London, 23 October 1950 (1575 - one of a 'Set of 4 Rocky Landscapes and Figures by Salveta [sic] Rosa'); bt J.A.Tooth, London; with Colnaghi & Co., London; bt Brinsley Ford, 1953; thence by descent
Unsigned; no inscription
It has been noted that in both P54 and P55 the figures are modelled on Poussin while the trees reflect Wilson's study of Venetian painting.
Verso:
[1] Lower horizontal member of frame, centre: Remains of old manuscript label: Doddington Hurton [?] [the rest illegible]
The subject is taken from the ancient Roman historian Livy, History of Rome [Ab Urbe Condita] Book 3, 25. Cincinnatus, who had retired from public life, was recalled from his farm to take on the dictatorship of Rome c.458 BC.
D146/2 The Prow of a Roman Galley, The British Museum (1881,0212.44, verso)
Pendant: P54 The Departure of Regulus, Private Collection, England
This painting is one of two 'historical compositions' painted in Rome for Ralph Howard (from 1785 Viscount Wicklow). Its pendant was P54 The Departure of Regulus, Private Collection, England. Begun before 13 January 1752, they were finished before 14 November the same year, the date of Wilson's account for them. The price was 20 sequins (about £10). The paintings represent a transitional stage in Wilson's development. Painted soon after his arrival in Rome they show him experimenting in a Poussinesque vein at a time when he was probably on the point of deciding to abandon portrait for landscape painting.
Undated inventory of Wicklow pictures (before 1820) as by Wilson; Dr George Meade, Account 11 October 1820 for 'cleaning, lining and restoring'; Ford May 1951, p. 165, fig. 18; WGC, pp. 28, 31, 71, 80, 110, 114, 158, pl. 15a; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 56-58, fig. 47.
A drawing for the prow of the ship on the right is D146/2.
According to Brinsley Ford, this painting and its pendant P54 were both in less good condition in the dark areas than the other Wicklow pictures. In 1820 Dr Meade charged more for restoring them than for the others. Wilson's use of bitumen in the shadows is unusual.
Kate Lowry has noted: Oil on simple weave linen canvas. Bright red priming visible in places in darks of foreground paint. Sky probably first underpainted in a pale tone to cover the priming as the red tone is not visible here. Two pentimenti observed in normal light: the distant poplar tree seen above the roof of the farm has been moved to the right slightly to improve the balance of the composition and the roof line of the building at the far right hand edge has been lowered. The general appearance of the painting is very dark and this is probably due to an accretion of surface dirt and a discoloured resin varnish coating. Pronounced drying cracks run through the central figures and all the darks of the left foreground, obscuring the dark forms in this area. Under ultra-violet light a thick overall coating of natural resin varnish is visible. Retouches to strengthen the outlines of the central figures, the tree trunk and branches at the left and the farm building behind underlie the surface of this varnish coating. More recent retouches overlie the general varnish coating at the top centre edge and down the right and left hand edges of the painting where paint and ground have flaked. These latter losses have not been filled prior to retouching. More recently wiping of the painting with a cloth has left circular marks visible on its surface at upper left in tree branches and sky. There are two whitish marks left by surface abrasion running down through the farm building behind the figures, and a matt surface damage to the left of centre just above the bend in the tree trunk. There are no damages to the original canvas visible under UV and the reason for the first relining probably lay in loss of attachment to the stretcher as the original turnover edges degraded. The present relining appears to be a glue-paste lining onto a similar weight linen canvas. The turnovers are coated with wax which suggests a later strip-lining. However this is uncertain without examining the painting out of its frame. The 5 member pine stretcher with square mortice joints and provision for keying out probably dates from around 1970-80 and is similar to that found on its companion painting P54 The Departure of Regulus. The support is currently in good condition with no loss of attachment or planar distortions.
21/11/2018