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Distant View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli (The Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli)
Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Distant View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli (The Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli)
Undated
Oil on canvas
124.5 x 171.5 cm
49 x 67 1/2 in.
LLAG 3548
P71D
The view is up the gorge of the River Aniene, showing the lower cascades in the middle distance and above them, the ruins of the so-called Villa of Maecenas or Temple of Hercules Victor. In the foreground a standing and kneeling woman are filling water jugs next to a large fragment of classical sculpture leaning against a Corinthian capital, and a severed stone head. To their right behind a large boulder a shepherd drives his flock away across a bridge. In the centre there are sheep or goats, above and beyond the sculpture. The small building on the hillside is the Tempio della Tosse (Temple of Coughing), perhaps a tomb. As noted by David Solkin, however, the foreground and middleground seem to be entirely invented, while the villa itself and the temple are shown on a much lower slope than they occupy in reality.
London 1925 (38); Manchester 1925 (56); Birmingham 1948-49 (58); London 1949 (57)
Andrews sale, 1888 (125 gns); James Orrock; Christie's 25-27 April 1895 (306, bt in); Orrock sale, Christie's, 4 June 1904 (45) bt by Agnew, for Orrock; Arthur Sanderson; William Hesketh Lever (1st Baron Leverhulme from 1917), November 1904; transferred from his private collection to the Lady Lever Art Gallery, 1922
RW monogram on rock by figures, lower left
Tivoli was a favoured location of the ancient Romans for their villas of retirement from the heat of Rome. For eighteenth-century Grand Tourists, it was a popular destination, not only because of the ancient remains but also for the spectacle of the outstanding waterfalls thundering down through wooded slopes. The 'Villa of Maecenas' was a key ruin for visitors, partly for its dramatic position but more so as the assumed residence of Maecenas, the greatest Roman patron of luxury and the arts. It was he who gave the poet Horace his Sabine Farm, which was a justification for rural retirement and was the inspiration for many British country houses under construction in the 18th century. The moral focus of the villa has also been emphasised, notably by Solkin, as symbolising the dangers of excessive luxury, not only for ancient Rome but also for contemporary Britain.
D164 Landscape with a large Temple, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
D260 Villa of Maecenas, Tate, London
E72/7 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, The Villa of Maecenas, The British Museum
E77 J. Le Keux after Wilson, Maecenas' Villa at Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
E79/2 Robert Brandard after Wilson, Maecenas' Villa at Tivoli, The British Museum
See 'Links' tab
[1] Claude-Joseph Vernet The Falls of Tivoli (1753, WGC pl. 151b)
[2] Francis Towne (1739-1816): The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli from below the Falls, watercolour, 1781, The British Museum (Nn,3.8)
This is harder in style than the Tate version P71, thought to have been commissioned directly from Wilson by Sackville Tufton, 8th Earl of Thanet following their visit to Tivoli in 1754 with the Earls of Pembroke and Essex and Viscount Bolingbroke. The design is virtually identical however, and it has been suggested that P71D may have been executed as a reference copy when P71 was still in Wilson's studio to serve as the basis for later versions by him and his assistants.
WHL 598
H.36
Tatlock p. 68
B. Webber, James Orrock, R.I., vol. 2, 1903, repr. opp. p. 156; Magazine of Fine Arts, Nov. 1905, repr.; Bury 1947, pl. 25; ; WGC, p. 226, pl. 117b (version 3); Davies 1959; A. Kidson, Earlier British Paintings in the Lady Lever Art Gallery, 1999, pp. 178-80
Kate Lowry has noted: Gilt compo frame, not glazed. Viewed in frame on display above cabinets through binoculars. Oil on canvas, relined? Very dark canvas and bright sky. The cascade at centre below ruin runs round to the right and under a bridge, whilst water from grotto at the left flows towards the women in centre of composition collecting water in their jars. Tight foliage with small leaves, but definite reserve visible around foliage mass.
18/08/2021