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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.
P91A
A lane runs across the foreground and on the left a man and a woman greet a friar. A rustic building is at the centre, overhung by trees, while to the right on a gentle slope, a line of trees and two small figures are silhouetted against the sunset sky.
Birmingham City Art Gallery 1926; Birmingham 1934, Art Treasures of the Midlands, (305 - Garden of the Villa Madama, 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 listed among the pictures in the Supping Parlour at Hagley Hall by 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, pencil: 18 (inverted)
[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 first 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.
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) 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. W.G. Constable believed it to be almost certainly the landscape by Wilson in the list of pictures at Hagley given in the The English Connoisseur in 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
Sir George Lyttelton owned what is probably this painting by 1766. The idea of a hermitage seems to have had a special appeal for him as he had such a building constructed in his own park at Hagley.
Carved period pine frame: 76 x 96.5 x 6 cm. Relined. Much raised cracking. Kate Lowry has noted: Glue-lined and on a nineteenth-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.
09/10/2020