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The Circus of Caracalla
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Circus of Caracalla
c.1754 (undated)
Black and white chalk on grey paper
277 x 415 mm
10 15/16 x 16 3/8 in.
WA.RS.REF.117
D273A
View of an arena, framed by a massive stone arch, from which hang creepers. In the left foreground are two figures, one seated with a staff over his shoulder, and a dog. To the right of this group is a boulder and there is another at the right base of the arch. Beyond the arena are several buildings and trees. The view is towards the west on what is currently the edge of the Via Appia Pignatelli. To the left in the middle distance, stands the round tower of the mausoleum of Caecilia Metella - one of the most imposing classical remains on the Via Appia Antica. Martin Postle has noted that in actuality it is visible only when one stands before the arch.
John Ruskin. Ruskin Collection, Reference Series 117
The Circus of Caracalla was the 18th century name for what is now known as the Circus of Maxentius. It was part of a palace complex flanking the Via Appia Antica built by the Emperor Maxentius in 306-12 AD.
E33 Edward Rooker after Wilson, Circus of Caracalla (from Twelve Original Views in Italy), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven
E33A Edward Rooker after Wilson, Circus of Caracalla (from Twelve Original Views in Italy), The British Museum
E33B Edward Rooker after Wilson, Circus at Caracalla (from Twelve Original Views in Italy), Royal Academy of Arts, London
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This drawing formed part of the teaching collection assembled by John Ruskin at the school of art that he founded in Oxford in 1871. He described it as the product of 'modest art-skill ... restricted almost exclusively to the expression of warm light in the low harmony of evening; but it differs wholly from the learned compositions and skilled artifices of former painting by its purity and unaffected pleasure and rest in the little that is given. Here, at last, we feel, is an honest Englishman, who has got away out of all the Camere, and the Loggie, and the Stanze, and the schools and the Disputas, and the Incendios and the Battaglias, and busts of this god, ands torsos of that, and the chatter of the studio, and the rush of the corso; - and has laid himself down, with his own poor eyes and heart, and the sun casting its light between ruins, - possessor, he, of so much of the evidently blessed peace of things, - he, and the poor lizard in the cranny of the stones beside him.'
1887
Cook & Wedderburn, vol. 21, 1906, p. 38; vol. 22, 1906, p. 63; vol. 39, 1912, pp. 377-38; Ford 1951, p. 60 under no. 57; Solkin 1978 pp. 404-5, pl. 16; Brown 1982, pp. 658-59, no. 1887, pl. 540; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 293