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The Head of Lake Nemi
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Imitator of Wilson
The Head of Lake Nemi
Oil on canvas
63 x 76.8 cm
24 13/16 x 30 1/4 inches
A view of the head of Lake Nemi, with the town of Nemi beyond on the right, mountains in the distance and three figures seen from behind on a hilltop in the foreground. There are boats at the far end of the lake and a shepherd and his flock on ghe far left bank.
Perhaps BI 1814 (170); Grosvenor Gallery 1888 (180); London, Guildhall, 1902 (47); Brighton 1920 (17); London 1934 (212 - Lake Nemi); New Haven 1981 (17)
Benjamin Booth; the Revd R.S. Booth; Lady Ford; Capt Richard Ford; Sir F. Clare Ford; Capt. Richard Ford; his sale Christie's, 14 June 1929 (11); bt Agnew (3100 guineas); Hon. John Dewar; Lord Forteviot, Dupplin Castle; the Mount Trust Collection; sold by order of the Administrators, Christie's 22 June 1973 (135), bt Agnew; from whom purchased 1973
Unsigned; no inscription
The brushwork is uncharacteristic, especially in the foreground, being far more crude than even in Wilson's late works. The church seems to be painted over the horizon. The figures are fussy yet not well drawn. The hillock is fluent but fussy and the water is dull. Brown details of undergrowth across the foreground are spiky and scattered. Details of the boats are dotty and wispy. The perspective of the lake at the left is dubious and the trees at the left have been added over the sky. The horizon does drop down with an impastoed line at the centre. The foliage is unarticulated, especially at the left. There is an ambiguous junction of the left bankside tree with the skyline.
[1] Torn Agnew label
[2] Agnew label #36286
[3] Lake Nemi | By | R. Wilson
[4] Unidentified red wax seal
Although the painting purports to represent Lake Nemi in the Roman Campagna near Genzano, it is topographically dubious. Wilson often changed the settings of his paintings but it is surprising that he would have misremembered Lake Nemi, the subject of at least one drawing executed by him on the spot. Nevertheless the painting is representative of the demand for Italian landscapes, especially of the lakes, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
D387/1 Lake Scene, Private Collection, England
E72/30 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, Untitled (The Head of Lake Nemi), The British Museum and other impressions
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The composition is Wilsonian but it has been misunderstood (for example the scale of the building on the left) and is clumsy. The trees on the left and the figures are stylistically uncharacteristic. Although accepted as by Wilson since before 1807, at least some of the picture, eg. the figures and boats, is evidently the work of a late eighteenth-century imitator or forger. But the quality is quite high overall.
Object ID: 156
Booth Notes Doc. 5; Booth Notes Doc. 8; Booth Notes Doc. 9 (41); Wright 1824, p. 272; Commemorative Catalogue 1934, p. 33 (112); WGC p. 207, pl. 92a; Cormack 1985, pp. 254 & 255
Large lozenge-shaped craquelure. There is a backboard of an odd shape which does cover the canvas, but not the stretcher