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The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli
The Trustees of the British Museum
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli
c.1752-53 (undated)
Black chalk on prepared dull lilac paper, touched with white
230 x 203 mm
9 1/16 x 8 in.
1881,0212.12
D130
A small figure is standing in the right foreground at the ruins of the so-called Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli, with others visible in the distance.
London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (32); ercentenary 2014 (35)
Doanted by John Deffett Francis, 1881
Unsigned; no inscription
The massive ruins of the Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor, part of which is shown here, were believed in the 18th century to be those of the villa built by Maecenas, a fabulously rich patron of the arts in ancient Rome and a friend of the Emperor Augustus. They became a constant attraction for international artists (for example Fragonard and Piranesi) in the later part of the century because of their sheer scale and grandeur. However, as emphasised by Jonathan Yarker, Wilson's plein-air sketch predates them all and he was also the first to pair his painting of the Villa Maecenas with that of the Villa Adriana, subsequently published as a pair of prints by John Boydell.
E43 M.A. Rooker after Wilson, Twelve Etchings of Views in Italy - Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven
E43A M.A. Rooker after Wilson, Villa of Mæcenas at Tivoli, The British Museum
E43B M.A. Rooker after Wilson, Villa of Mæcenas at Tivoli, The British Museum
E43C M.A. Rooker after Wilson, Villa of Mæcenas at Tivoli, Royal Academy of Arts, London
E43D M.A. Rooker after Wilson,Villa of Mæcenas at Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
E43E M.A. Rooker after Wilson, Villa of Mæcenas at Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
P137 Wilson, The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, Tate, London
P137A Wilson, The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery
P137B Wilson, Study at Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
P137C Studio of Wilson, The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli (Ruins at the Villa of Maecenas, Tivoli), Magdalen College, Oxford
P137D Wilson, The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli, Private Collection, USA
P137E Studio of Wilson, Villa of Maecenas, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
Pendants:
P138 Villa Adriana
P138A Villa Adriana
P138B Villa Adriana
Jean-Honoré Fragonard, red chalk, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Besançon
Giovanni-Battista Piranesi, etching, 1764 for Part II of Vedute di Roma
Abraham-Louis Ducros, watercolour, c.1786, Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne
Wilson was the first in a succession of artists to depict the ruins of the so-called Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli. This is clearly a rapidly-made memento, presumably executed on the spot. The timelessly decaying picturesqueness is enhanced by the bushes and drooping plants which grow over the vast arches. He based a pair of painted views (P137 & P138) on this drawing and on D170 respectively.
Binyon 24; WGC, p. 205, pl. 87b; Solkin 1982, p. 162; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 228-29
Wilson based a pair of painted views of the ruins of the villas of Maecenas and of Hadrian (P137 Tate, London N00303 and P138 Tate, London N00302) on this drawing and on D170 Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (GV DF 2071) respectively. P137 was engraved by Michael Angelo Rooker and published in 1776.