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River, Sea Coast and circular Ruin
Private Collection, England / Photograph by John Hammond
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
River, Sea Coast and circular Ruin
c.1765 (undated)
Oil on canvas
76.2 x 98 cm
30 x 39 in.
Private Collection, England
BB20
P92A
A classical landscape, with a man and two women conversing by a lake or river on a high bank near an open sarcophagus with antique medallion motif in the left foreground. To the right are two arches of a ruined bridge with a ruined circular building above and behind. A carefully observed Italian building with campanile appears among trees to the left before a mountain in the distance. A prominent tower or light-house on a cliff-top illuminated by diagonal rays of sunlight beyond overlooks a wide expanse of sea with ships distantly discernible.
BI 1814 (158); Brighton 1920 (13); London 1925 (Vale of Narni, no. 81); Manchester 1925 (68); Exeter 1946 (58); Paris 1953 (93 - Paysage italien; Leicester 1953 (Italian landscape, no 81); London 1968 (13); Conwy 2009 (16); Weston 2011 (18); Gainsborough House 2014 (unnumbered)
Edward Penny R.A.; Benjamin Booth; The Revd R.S. Booth; Lady Ford; Richard Ford; Sir Francis Clare Ford; John G. Ford; Sir Brinsley Ford; thence by family descent
Signed in monogram on stone at centre right: RW [the R reversed]
The exact location of the view has been much debated and the scene is almost certainly a capriccio centred on the so-called Temple of Venus at Baia near Naples (see Critical Commentary below). The marble sarcophagus in the foreground is very much an invention of Wilson's and cannot be considered conventional in form, with its square shape, flat open top and oval decoration.
D271 Bay of Baiae - Temple of Venus, Victoria & Albert Museum (Dyce.647)
E64 William Pengree Sherlock, River, Sea-Coast and circular Ruin ('Morning'), The British Museum (1873,0809.1415)
E72/14 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, Temple of Venus with Part of the Bay of Baiae, The British Museum
E72/40 Thomas Hastings Landscape (River, Sea Coast and circular Ruin), 1824, The British Museum (1854,0708.97)
E73 Samuel William Reynolds Morning, 1824, The British Museum (1879,0614.334) and other impressions
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The composition has been known under several titles, notably The Temple of Venus at Baiae but at first sight the temple does not seem to be the same building as in D271 or in the famous Turner painting of the Bay of Baiae in Tate, London. However, Robin Simon has recently observed that the building is in fact the same (actually baths rather than a temple) but seen from the opposite side, revealing the ruined open aspect of the structure. He further has identified the landscape in the middle distance as resembling the view looking out from the Bay of Pozzuoli and the town of Baia towards Naples - an area much favoured by Wilson. The present version was mistakenly described as Vale of Narni when exhibited in 1925 at the Tate Gallery. It is typical of those Wilson produced in the decade or so after his return to London from Italy in 1759. It retains the freshness and delicacy of handling that mark the canvases painted in Italy, together with the brilliance and heightening of colours that are characteristic of his pictures c.1758-65.
Booth Notes Doc. 5, p. 2 (A Temple in Ruins & View of Bay of Naples); Booth Notes, Doc. 9 (47); H. D. Roberts, Connoisseur, May 1920; WGC, pp. 47, 75, 93, 217, pl.106a (image mistakenly illustrates P92B); Walpole Society 1998-I, p. 16, BB20; Lord 2009, p. 55, no. 16; Williams 2011, p. 29, repr.; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 283
09/11/2018