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The Hermitage, Villa Madama
Courtesy of Viscount Cobham
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Hermitage, Villa Madama
c.1756-58 (undated)
Oil on canvas
62 x 82.2 cm
24 3/8 x 32 3/8 in.
A lane runs across the foreground and on the left a man and a woman greet a friar. A cottage is at the centre, overhung by trees, while to the right on a gentle slope, a line of trees is silhouetted against the sunset sky.
Birmingham 1926; Birmingham, Art Treasures of the Midlands, 1934 (305 Villa Madama, near Rome); Birmingham 1948-49 (12); London 1949 (11); Auckland City Art Gallery, New Zealand, Old Master Paintings from the Private and Public Collections of New Zealand, 1959 (16)
Probably the 'Landscape by Wilson' among the pictures at Hagley listed in The English Connoisseur in 1766 (see Bibliography); thence by descent
Unsigned; no inscription
The style indicates a period just post Wilson's travels in Italy, as indicated by the variation in foliage colours. The lovers in the foreground are French rococo in style. The ground appears to be grey and there is evidence of a reserve left below the paint of the tree at the upper left. The sky is finely painted.
[1] Right stretcher bar: 4 pencil figure '3's and one inscribed '4' encircled in red chalk
[2] Lower stretcher bar: Inverted 18 in pencil
[1] Verso upper stretcher bar left: [...]-B1-K [/] City of Birmingham Art Gallery [/] Richard Wilson [/] Villa Madama [/] Lent by Lord Cobham [/] 12
[2] Verso upper stretcher bar left centre: CITY MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY [/] BIRMINGHAM [/]Jubilee Commemorative Exhibition [/] 1934 [/] THE PROPERTY OF Viscount Cobham
[3] Verso upper stretcher bar right centre: BIRMINGHAM ART GALLERY [/] LENT BY VISCOUNT COBHAM [/] HAGLEY HALL [/] TITLE Landscape , Villa Madama, Rome [/] [...] Wilson R.A. [/] ...02 [...] 1926
[4] Verso upper stretcher bar right: P8671-B1-K [/] City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery [/] Viscount Cobham
Known as The Hermitage by 1814. Described in the 1900 Catalogue of the Pictures at Hagley Hall (102) as 'representing that part of the Villa Madama, near Rome, where the 'Pastor Fido' of Guarini was acted.' The Villa Madama was designed by Raphael for Cardinal Giuliano dei Medici (later Pope Clement VII) and took its name from having been occupied by Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Charles V, and Duchess of Parma, in the late 16th century. Il Pastor Fido by G.B. Guarini (1537-1612) is a pastoral drama, from which the libretto of Handel's opera was derived.
The subject of a hermitage seems to have had a special appeal for Sir George Lyttelton, who had such a building constructed in his own park at Hagley.
E14 William Byrne after Wilson A View in the Villa Madama, near Rome, called Il Teatro, 1765, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven (B1984.21.428);
E14A William Byrne after Wilson, A View in the Villa Madama, near Rome, called Il Teatro, Victoria & Albert Museum, London;
E14B William Byrne after Wilson, A View in the Villa Madama, near Rome, called Il Teatro, The British Museum
E14C William Byrne after Wilson, A View in the Villa Madama near Rome called Il Teatro, Royal Academy of Arts
E14D William Byrne after Wilson, View in the Villa Madama, National Museum Wales, Cardiff and other impressions
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Stylistically the painting is datable c.1756-58, making it likely in the light of its documented early Hagley connection to have been painted for either Sir George Lyttelton or Admiral Thomas Smith. Constable believed it to be almost certainly the 'Landscape by Wilson' in the list of pictures at Hagley given in the English Connoisseur, I, 73 (1766)
The English Connoisseur, vol. 1, (1766), p. 73; Catalogue of the Pictures at Hagley Hall, 1900, no. 102; WGC, pp. 41, 202-203, pl. 82a
Note the shepherds, pilgrims or peasants silhouetted as they cross the bridge at the right. Sir George Lyttelton had acquired this painting by 1766 but acquired nothing after this.
Carved period pine frame: 76 x 96.5 x 6 cm. Relined. Much raised cracking. Kate Lowry has noted: Glue-lined and on a 19th century stretcher with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. Grey ground visible where exposed around green foliage centre top. No obvious reserve around ginger coloured leaves against sky. Foreground figures quite Rococo in style, whilst the trees against sky are more Claudian. Raised cracks in sky and upper foliage. Old drying cracks in central dark areas.