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A View of the Tiber with Rome in the Distance (Rome from the Ponte Molle)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
A View of the Tiber with Rome in the Distance (Rome from the Ponte Molle)
c.1775 (undated)
Oil on canvas
98.4 x 136.5 cm
38 3/4 x 53 3/4 inches
B1981.25.687
P64A
A sunset view of the wooded banks of the river, with three figures in the foreground near two tall trees at the left. The towered building on the left is a distorted version of the tower at the end of the Ponte Molle. In the distance is the Tiber with the Castel Sant' Angelo (Mausoleum of Hadrian) and St Peter's beyond.
Grosvenor Gallery, 1888 (79); Brighton 1920 (5); Mold, Eisteddfod, 1923 (no catalogue); Wembley 1924-25 (V.39 repr. Souvenir, pl. 15); New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, 1925 (5); London 1925 (42 - Tiber); Manchester 1925 (64 - Tiber); London 1934 (253 - The Tiber); Exeter 1946 (72 - The Tiber)
Richard Hulse (1727-1805) of Blackheath; Benjamin Booth, sold Christie's 30-31 May 1809 (97) bt. in; Revd. R.S. Booth; Lady Ford; Richard Ford; Sir Francis Clare Ford; Capt. Richard Ford, Christie's, 14 June 1929 (8) bt in; Mrs Richard Ford, Christie's, 11 June 1937 (34) bt in; Sir Emmanuel Kaye CBE; John Baskett from whom acquired by Paul Mellon, 10 October 1973
Unsigned; no inscription
Large and overall brown, orange and blue. There are strange red dots on the underside of the foliage of the left hand tree. Underpainting seems to be showing through, e.g. in the built-up layers of foliage. The cypress to the right has been extended at the upper right. The foreground focus is out, including that of the figures. The background figure at the left is painted over the wall. The whole composition is globulous and unarticulated but the lighting of the horizon and sky is very sensitive, except at the summit of the hills, where it is heavily impastoed. The horizon line does come down at the summit of the hills centre right but is overpainted with trees.
Two Christie's stencils verso:
[1] 52 GM
[2] 446EY
The Ponte Milvio or Molle, seen on the left, was renowned primarily as the place where the Roman Emperor Constantine defeated Maxentius on 28 October 312 AD.
D172 A Roman Altar at Palestrina, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
D228 Ionic Capitals, Private Collection, England
D302 Ponte Molle, Monte Mario, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California
E72/38 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, View on the Tiber with Rome in the Distance, The British Museum and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
[1] Francis Towne (1739-1816): View on the Banks of the Tiber, watercolour, 1780, The British Museum (Nn,2.12)
[2] Francis Towne (1739-1816): St Peter's at Sunset, from above the Arco Oscuro, watercolour, 1781 (Nn,1.14)
[3] Francis Towne (1739-1816): The Ponte Molle, watercolour, 1781, The British Museum (Nn,1.20)
Booth Notes, Doc. 9 (51); Wright 1824, p. 271; H. Colvin, Portfolio, June 1872 (87); Fletcher 1908; H.D. Roberts, 'The Ford Collection of Works by Richard Wilson,' Connoisseur, LVII, May 1920, p. 28; Col. M.H. Grant, Burlington Magazine, April 1920; Rutter 1923, p. 96; Commemorative Catalogue 1934, p. 33, no. 109, pl. XL; Bury 1947, repr. pl. 10 (colour); Woodall 1949, p. 25, (under 72); WGC, pp. 221-22, pl. 113b; Cormack 1985, pp. 254 & 255; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 199, fig.160
Kate Lowry has noted: Normal weave canvas. Backboard of foamboard. Painting has been glue-relined probably in 19th or early 20th century with original turnovers incorporated on the face of the stretcher. These appear never to have been primed which suggests an artist's preparation rather than a commercial ground. Cusping of the original canvas is visible at the top edge. Nine member stretcher has square mortice joints with provision for keying out. Ground colour is light, possibly pale grey in tone. Although all margins are heavily overpainted the paint in the right hand area of sky around cypress trees and in the distant and middle ground is quite thin and the ground tone is visible here. IR imaging shows some underdrawing of the distant buildings on the sky line, of the pine tree trunks and branches at left and around the top of the foliage of the pine trees, as well as around the cypress trees. No discernible underdrawing in foreground figures or the stone capital. No signature or date found. Paint is generally thin in the middle ground, distant buildings and lower right sky, either because left unfinished or perhaps through overcleaning. Where it is more thickly applied as in the pine trees upper left it is applied quite loosely with strong blobs of a pure red-orange colour expressing the light. Some bright yellow touches in the sky appear to be retouches over the varnish and are not original. Retouching and overpaint visible under UV particularly over some of the yellow cloud above the horizon and to the left of the tower as well as the tower itself; above and to the left of the cypresses heavy overpaint may indicate larger damages; the figures, the pine tree trunks and the tower have all been reinforced by retouching around them. Much of the reddish tone of the middle ground is due to retouching. Close examination of original sky paint suggests the use of ultramarine in the central area and Prussian blue around the margins, slightly faded at lower right sky. There is also a strong scattering of coarse black and earth pigments present in margins of the sky. Under the microscope it is clear that the majority of the paint is original with coarse pigment particles indicating it was hand-ground. Most of the bright flashes of colour such as the red on pine foliage, pink daub in sky and yellow above the horizon are original and show Wilson working quite loosely and expressively in a style quite unlike his earlier work and yet unmistakeably Wilson in choice of pigments and compositional elements.