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A Roman Relief showing a Poultry Shop
Private Collection, England / Photograph by John Hammond
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
A Roman Relief showing a Poultry Shop
c.1752-53 (undated)
Black chalk, heightened with white, on blue-grey paper
114 x 197 mm
4 1/2 x 7 3/4 in.
Private Collection, England
London 1925 (88A); Exeter 1946 (22 - Classical Frieze); Tercentenary 2014 (31)
William Lock of Norbury; his sale, Sotheby's, London 3-7 May 1821; Marianne Ford; thence by descent
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] In Wilson's hand: [m]ontibus umbrae lustrabunt [convexa]
The original stone relief (now in the Torlonia Collection, Rome) was, in Wilson's day, in the collection of Cardinal Albani in the Casino of the Villa Albani, Via Salaria, Rome.
D319 Fontana dello Scoglio, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
Such an apparently commonplace subject might seem unusual for Wilson. However, the relief bears an inscription from Virgil's Aeneid, Book 1, Line 607, which no doubt caught the imagination of the artist, whose knowledge of Latin literature was remarked on at the time. Three Latin words written by Wilson on the reverse of the drawing are taken from this inscription, which in turn forms part of the speech of Aeneas to Dido in the first book of the Aeneid, lines 595-610. It may be translated as '[while] the shadows of the mountains move in procession round the curves of the valleys' [and continues in translation as:] while the sky feeds the stars, your honour, your name and your praise will remain for ever in every land to which I am called.' Wilson had an introduction to Cardinal Albani when he arrived in Rome and through this seems to have gained access to the cardinal's collections as well as other areas of Rome inaccessible to most, such as the Pope's private gardens (cf. D319 Fontana dello Scoglio, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery).
S. Reinach, Répertoire des Reliefs, III, Paris 1912, p. 346; Ford 1951, p. 54, pl. 16; Walpole Society 1998-I, p. 71, RF81; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 226