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Fontana dello Scoglio (A Rocaille Fountain)
Birmingham Museums Trust
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Fontana dello Scoglio (A Rocaille Fountain)
1754-55 (undated)
Black chalk, stump, grey wash and white bodycolour on grey wove paper with ruled margins
391 x 516 mm
15 3/8 x 20 5/16 in.
1954 P4
D319
Birmingham 1948-49 (93); London 1949 (92); Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art & New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1962, English Drawings and Water Colours from British Collections (98); Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts 1966 Peintures et Aquarelles anglaises 1700-1900 (136); Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 1968, Early English Drawings and Watercolours; London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (50); Nordic Watercolor Museum, Tjörn, Sweden, 2007 (18); Tercentenary 2014 (17)
Commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, then by descent; Christie's 29 January 1954 (23 A Rocaille Fountain), bt National Art Collections Fund and presented to Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
Unsigned; no inscription
Pentimenti are visible parallel to the roofline and walls of the building to the left
[1] Inscribed in an unidentified hand: 61
The Fontana dello Scoglio (Fountain of the Rock) is situated in the Giardino del Belvedere, part of the private papal gardens of the Vatican Palace in Rome. It was built in 1611-12 for Pope Paul V (Borghese), probably by the architect and engraver, Martino Ferrabosco. The eagle, an emblem of the Borghese family, stands at the apex of the rockwork and has led to alternative names for the fountain, such as the Aquilone (great eagle) or the Fontana dell'Aquila (fountain of the eagle). The winged dragon is also a Borghese device. The place was difficult to access and the subject of the drawing was long unidentified or thought to be imaginary. Wilson probably gained access to it through his social contacts in Rome, notably Cardinal Albani.
This highly worked composition is a presentation drawing from the Dartmouth series. It must have been developed in the studio from a preliminary study made on the spot but none is known to survive. A group of 25 drawings, surviving from the Dartmouth series of 68, were found in a drawer at Patshull in 1948 by Lady Dartmouth. The number 60 recorded on the reverse of this drawing implies that it was made late in the series. David Solkin has remarked that, considering the importance of gardening in 18th century England, the presence of several gardening scenes within the Dartmouth series is not surprising.
4,54
Farington Diary, vol. 7, p. 2775 (1 June 1806); Farington Biographical Note p. 12; Illustrated London News, 13 November 1948, p. 548, repr.; Ford 1948, p. 345, A Rocaille Fountain (61);; Ford 1951, p.59, no. 50; Solkin 1982, p.172; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 267 under cat. 195; Wilson and Europe 2014, p.217
Laid down on cream paper and framed in grey; the whole is laid down on a modern mount with the verso invisible.