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Croome Court, Worcestershire
Private Collection / Photograph by Studio Edmark Photography
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Croome Court, Worcestershire
1758-59 (undated)
Oil on canvas
129.2 x 165.8 cm (sight size)
50 7/8 x 65 1/4 in. (sight size)
Private Collection, England
7.7
P83
The house is seen from the south, with the morning sun's rays streaming down from the East at the top right of the picture and casting strong diagonal shadows across its facade. The house and setting are integrated by these shadows and by the white smoke rising lazily from the roof-line. At the far left are glimpses of the agricultural foundations of the estate, with two sheep and a shepherd or shepherdess looking in the direction of distant cornfields.
BI 1814 (208); Worcester, County Art Treasures, 1937 (119); Birmingham 1948-49 (16); London 1949 (15); British Painting in the 18th Century, British Council Canada, 1957-58 (75); Kenwood 1967 (32); London, Tate Gallery, 1987-88, Manners and Morals: Hogarth and British Painting 1700-1760 (213); London, Cardiff and New Haven 1982-83 (82)
Begun in 1758 for George William, 6th Earl of Coventry (50 guineas); thence by descent
Signed on the trunk of the tree at left: RW [monogram, the R reversed]
The sky is brilliant and varied, painted over a pink ground, which is visible in the fork of the tree at the left for example. The tree is painted over a reserved space and the skyline at the left is drawn down to the horizon - a textbook example of this technique. The distant church and bridge are shown in miniscule detail and tiny Canalettesque figures populate the middle ground and the steps of the portico. There are numerous pentimenti:
1. Standing figures to right and left at the base of the tree at the left.
2. A raised arm to the left of the standing fisherman
3. A woman standing beyond the lying fisherman
4. To the left of the single cow beyond the water, there is a second darker one parallel to the first
5. Below the single cow, a shadowy horse partly silhouetted above the edge of the bank
6. A seated or standing figure on the bench to the right of the cow
The compiler was unable to inspect the reverse
Croome Court was begun in 1751 for the 6th Earl of Coventry, after his marriage to Maria Gunning. It was the first independent project carried out by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783), who succeeded in transforming the setting from a marshy piece of land into a spacious lawn, bordered by a gentle stream. The house itself, the church, the wooden bridge and the ice-house in the park were also built to his designs but the interior was decorated by Robert Adam. The church was not finished until 1763, and was not included in Wilson's preparatory drawing. However, Wilson probably added it to the painting at the request of Lord Coventry.
D348 Study for Croome Court, Worcestershire (Private Collection, England)
Francesco Zuccarelli The Rape of Europa is traditionally said to be a pendant. It is virtually the same size 129.2 x 165.4 cm (sight size) and the frames are very close in design.
This is the first example of a topographical view by Wilson postdating his stay in Italy. As W.G. Constable noted, it marks his return to the English topographical tradition with reminiscences of Lambert in its design and the treatment of foliage. The broad massing of light and shade, with the concentration of interest on the house, the feeling for light, especially in the sky and the decisive handling all make it an advance on Wilson's earlier work of the same type and indicate how much he had learnt in Italy (WGC, p. 87). The woman with the child in the centre is probably intended as a servant or wet nurse.
MS Receipts, Croome Court, 7 November 1758 & 15 May 1759, recording that Wilson received 51 guineas for the picture; William Dean, An Historical and Descriptive Account of Croome d'Abitot, the Seat of the Right Hon, The Earl of Coventry, Worcester, 1824; Wright 1824, p. 271; B. Ford, 'The Art of Richard Wilson', Country Life, 19 November 1948; WGC, pp. 43, 71, 87, 88, 111, 149, 173, pl. 33a; J. Harris, The Artist and the Country House, 1979, p. 271. fig. 293; Solkin 1982, p. 196; Waites 2012, p. 55
In a contemporary carved gilt wood frame supplied by the carver and gilder, Thomas Wolf, of Dean Street Soho, 1758. Wolf invoiced the frame of Zuccarelli's Rape of Europa for £11 as 'To woodwork, carving and gilding in burnished gold a large picture frame for a landskip to match one done before.'

Kate Lowry has noted: Linen canvas, probably glue-relined. Original canvas appears to be simple weave linen, medium weight. Ground is pale pink, which is left visible around the fork of the trunk of left hand tree, around the foliage of same tree just above distant bridge, as well as in the several areas of the sky, at top centre and above the left hand tree. The remainder of the ground is well covered by the sky paint in the upper part of the painting. The distant landscape, middle and foreground, is more transparent with thin brown underpaint layer visible beneath. Distant house, round temple at far right, distant figures and sheep are quite solidly painted with strong white highlights, whilst foreground central figure group, distant deer, the cow at centre right and water at lower right corner are relatively thinly painted. Water at lower right corner may be worn or have been over cleaned. Under UV and also sometimes in normal and raking light additional figures are visible, now painted out. These pentimenti comprise: a seated figure beneath and to right of the left hand tree; a figure, possibly a woman, coming up the bank to right of the prone fisherman and a figure reclining on the bench beneath right hand tree. There is also a pentiment to left of the standing fisherman suggesting that this figure was originally painted with his left arm raised. Various pentimenti of animals are visible too in normal or in UV light. There is an extra cow to the left of the present one drinking at lower right and the head of a horse or cow coming up the river bank, below and to the right of the drinking cow. The extent of the pentimenti is unusual for Wilson and suggests he was working hard to get the foreground compositional elements right. Under UV light, as well as pentimenti that have been retouched out, there are a few minor retouched losses in sky; small retouch to right of centre sky and small retouch in upper right sky. A larger retouched damage 2-3cm in length is present in tree foliage at upper left. Otherwise the painting is in excellent condition.