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Caernarvon Castle with Anglesea in the Distance
Private Collection / Photograph by Matthew Hollow
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Caernarvon Castle with Anglesea in the Distance
c.1765-66 (undated)
Oil on canvas
102 x 127.5 cm
40 1/8 x 50 3/16 in.
Private Collection, England
P12C
SA 1766 (190); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (118)
James Brydges, 3rd Marquis of Caernarvon and 3rd Duke of Chandos, Stowe House, Buckinghamshire; Stowe sale, 14 September 1848 (381), bt J.H. Booth 110 gns (£115-10s.); with Spink, London, 1936; Mrs Vincent Gompertz, Glendon Hall, Kettering; sold Christie's 22 May 1953 (93), bt Bernard; with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, November-December 1953; private collection
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Verso Upper left top member of frame: Tate Gallery 1982 exhibition
[2] Centre of upper horizontal member of stretcher, printed and typescript: T3137 / Carnarvon [sic] Castle, 1766 / by / R. WILSON / ARTHUR TOOTH & SONS LTD
[3] Torn printed label mostly illegible: O / 3 P ... ET, LONDON W1 MAYFAIR 2920
Caernarvon Castle is located on the northern banks of the River Seiont on the Caernarvonshire coast in North Wales, across the Menai Straits from the Island of Anglesey. Its massive ruins offered the traveller in search of the picturesque an impressive reminder of Britain's heroic past. The castle was begun by Edward I in 1284 and his son Edward, the first English Prince of Wales, was born in the great Eagle Tower on 25th April that year.
William Byrne after Wilson, various impressions published by Boydell, 1775
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Considerable care has been lavished on the figures individualised on the hill at the right and along the river bank on the left. David Solkin has noted that unlike Wilson's earlier portrayals of the same subject, this picture adheres closely to topographical fact (only the foreground seems to have been largely invented). It remains idealised, however, for in reality Caernarvon was a bustling port rather than a secluded pastoral outpost.
Pennant 1784, pp. 214-19; Grant 1922, p. 55; Constable 1954, p. 144, fig. 11; Solkin 1982, p. 226
In a gilt carved frame, possibly contemporary with the painting: 119 x 144 cm. Unglazed, not backed.
Kate Lowry has noted:
Simple weave canvas. Glue relined. Original turnover edges removed at time of lining. Five member pine stretcher dates from relining. Smooth, pale grey, commercially-prepared oil ground visible at upper left margin and around the tree foliage against the sky centre right. Paint applied in a quite liquid way very much in the style of Canaletto, especially the sunlit castle turrets and the distant figures. Long shadows and rosy light suggest an evening scene. Blue of the sky appears to be ultramarine rather than Prussian blue which would fit in with the proposed date of the painting. Some minor pentimenti are visible: the distant tower on the hill at the left side of the composition has been reduced in height; the head position of the left hand cow in foreground has been changed and there are signs that the fencing at lower right corner has been redrawn by the artist. No pentimenti observed in the trunks and branches of trees in right foreground. Widespread mature crackle but no drying cracks. Paint in the castle wall and in the dark grey clouds at the right of the composition is a little worn. Under UV light no major damages are visible. Some retouching to the vection and mature cracks in sky at left and centre and in the clouds above the castle at the right. Minor retouches around two figures seated in foreground.