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Grotta Ferrata
Rhode Island Museum of Art, School of Design, Providence
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Grotta Ferrata
Black chalk and stump, heightened with white on grey-green paper
287 x 422 mm
11 5/16 x 16 5/8 in.
A view of the walled town across a wooded hillside from a neighbouring hill
London, Agnews, January 1958, Water-colours and Drawings (31); Birmingham 1948-49 (81); London 1949 (80); Rhode Island School of Design, Selection II - British Watercolours and Drawings, 1972 (8)
Commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801); by descent to the 8th Earl; sold Christie's 29 January 1954 (14); with Agnew's, London; presented anonymously, 1969
See 'Mount Inscriptions'
Numbered on verso of mount: 47
[1] Black chalk on coloured border of original mount, lower left: 'R Wilson f. 1754.'
[2] Pen and brown ink on cartellino superimposed on coloured border of original mount, lower centre: 'Grotta | Ferrata'
[3] Black chalk on coloured border of original mount, lower right: N 12
Grottaferrata is a small town situated on the lower slopes of the Alban Hills, 20 kilometres (12 miles) south east of Rome between Frascati and Lake Albano. The prominent Romanesque campanile is that of the famous abbey of Santa Maria di Grottaferrata.
One of a major series of drawings commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801) in 1754, of which 25 are known to survive. The Dartmouth set is the most important group of the artist's finished compositions on paper. Originally numbering 68, the drawings were highly prized by the Earl of Dartmouth and much admired by connoisseurs and artists of the day including William Lock of Norbury, and the artists John Hoppner and Joseph Farington. Hoppner wrote of them, 'they were such as the Greeks would have made & put all others at a distance' and Farington was almost certainly referring to them when he characterised Wilson's drawings as having 'all the qualities of his pictures except the colour.' Drawings from the set are distinguished by a white mount with lilac wash border, on which the artist attached a small white label, bearing the title of the work.
Ford 1948, p. 345, no. 12; Illustrated London News, 11 January 1958; 'Selection II - British Watercolours and Drawings', Bulletin of the Rhode Island School of Design, vol. 58, no. 6, 1972, no. 8, pl. 8; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 267 under cat. 195
This is one of 20 views of the Environs of Rome referred to by Thomas Jenkins in a letter dated 1 June 1754. Of these only no. 1 is missing from the serial numbers recorded in the lower right corner of each. All the Dartmouth drawings have numbers in graphite on the back, ranging (with gaps) from 23 to 61, thus supporting the total of 68 given by Farington. The mounts of all the surviving Dartmouth drawings, with their lilac wash borders, were made by Wilson or under his direction, perhaps by Jenkins.