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The Circus of Flora, Rome, with an Artist sketching in the Foreground
Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery / Norfolk Museums Service
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Circus of Flora, Rome, with an Artist sketching in the Foreground
Dated 1754
Graphite, black chalk with stump, heightened with white chalk on grey laid paper
278 x 421 mm
10 15/16 x 16 9/16 in.
NWHCM 1974.390:F
D306
The view is from the eastern end of the former Circus of Flora, looking beyond the Villa Cesi (now destroyed) on the left towards the distant dome of St Peter's, with a seated artist drawing in the foreground
Birmingham 1948-49 (77); London 1949 (76); P.& D. Colnaghi & Co. Ltd, London 1973, Exhibition of English Drawings, Watercolours and Paintings (84, pl. XXXIIb); Kenwood 1974 (23); J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky 1977, British Watercolours: A Golden Age 1750-1850 (4); Munich 1979-80 (93 - Der Zirkus des Maximus, Rom); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (45); Philadelphia and Houston 2000 (405)
Commissioned 1754 by William Legge 2nd Earl of Dartmouth; thence by descent to the 8th Earl of Dartmouth; Christie's London 29 January 1954 (10), bt The Mount Trust Collection; Christie's 5 June 1973 (38); P.& D. Colnaghi & Co., Ltd, London; bt by Norwich Castle Museum 1974 with financial assistance from the Victoria & Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund
See 'Mount inscriptions'
[1] Original mount, black lead: 51
[1] Black chalk lower left on coloured border of original mount: R.W.f. Roma 1754.
[2] Black chalk lower right on coloured border of original mount: No. 8
[3] Ink superimposed on coloured border of original mount label: Circus | of | Flora.
David Solkin has noted that the Circus of Flora, no longer in existence, once lay south west of the Porta Salaria in the northeast corner of the walled city of Rome
One of a major series of drawings commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801) iin 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 and much admired by connoisseurs and artists of the day including William Lock of Norbury, John Hoppner and Joseph Farington. Hoppner said 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.
390.974
Farington Diary, vol. 7, p. 2775 (1 June 1806); Farington Biographical Note p. 12; Ford 1948, p. 345, no. 8; Ford 1951, pp. 23, 59, no. 54; WGC, pp. 33, 108; Burlington Magazine, December 1973; Solkin 1982, pp. 168-169; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 267 under cat. 195; E.P Bowron & J.J. Rishel eds., Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, 2000, pp. 557-58 (entry by A. Percy).
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.
Dimensions including coloured border: 353 x 495 mm 13 7/8 x 19 1/2 in.) Conserved at P.& D. Colnaghi & Co Ltd 1973
26/11/2018