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Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia, with the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli and the Broken Bridge at Narni
Private Collection, New York / Photograph by Alan Roche, New York
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia, with the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli and the Broken Bridge at Narni
Probably 1754 (undated)
Oil on canvas
102.7 x 139 cm
40 1/2 x 55 in.
Private Collection, New York
P66
The imaginary scene includes an array of classical ruins taken from different parts of Italy, assembled for the purpose of didactically conveying the decline and fall of ancient Rome. The foreground contains an ancient sarcophagus, symbolising death and decay. It stands before a ruin, perhaps taken as a tomb by Wilson, bearing an inscribed stone which presumably refers to the Via Aemilia, the road from Rimini to Piacenza, the road constructed by the consul M. Aemilius Ledpidus in c.186 BC. To the right is the Temple of the Sibyl from Tivoli, built during the 1st century BC during the reign of the dictator Sulla, while in the middle distance is the broken bridge at Narni, constructed by the Emperor Augustus. Beyond this to the left rises the Torre delle Milizie, a medieval tower overlooking the Forum of Trajan in Rome.
Plymouth City Museum, West of England Treasures July, 1954; London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (73)
Commissioned 1752-53 by Stephen Beckingham from the artist; Thomas Wright, Upton Hall, Newark by 1824; his sale, Christie's London, 7 June 1845; Sassoon House, Brighton; Lt. Col. P.L.E. Walker, Chipping Sodbury; with Spink London (no. K26459); Anon sale, Christie's London, 24 November 1972 (81); with Spink & Son, London, 1975; Mr and Mrs Brian Thomas; Anon sale Christie's London 23 November 2005 (53), where bt by the present owner
Unsigned; inscribed on stone at left: M | EMILIA | V.A. XVII
There are pentimenti in the smaller tree at the right. The ground is brown. The 18th century frame is original.
D228 Ionic Capitals, Private Collection, England
E72/27 Thomas Hastings Untitled (Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia), The British Museum (1854,0708.84) and other impressions
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Pendant P67 Landscape Capriccio with the Tomb of the Horatii and Curiatii, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo
P66C Italian River Landscape with a broken Bridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
This is closely related to Claude Lorrain's Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, 1663, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, in Wilson's day at the Palazzo Colonna, Rome
Together with its companion piece P67 (see 'Related Paintings'), also commissioned by Stephen Beckingham in Rome, this painting is more complex and ambitious in terms of iconography than any of the other landscapes known to have been produced by Wilson while abroad. The composition appears to have been based on Claude's Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, 1663, Thyssen Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, which Wilson may have seen at the Palazzo Colonna, Rome. A strong visual message of the work is the history of declining ancient civilisation and its potential application to eighteenth-century Britain.
Constable 1962, pp. 141-42, under col. 2 no., fig. 9; The Connoisseur, July 1974; The Burlington Magazine, June 1975, 'Notable Works of Art now on the Market'; Solkin 1982, pp. 41-42, 189-90, cat. 73, pl. III; Solkin 2015, pp. 144, 212
The second version P66A features a different grouping of the figures in the left foreground with a younger woman. The details on the right are more sunken in this painting and the urn and plinth are not so obvious.
According to the owner, cleaned after November 2005 by Alain Goldrich, New York when 'a great deal of overpaint was removed. The original paint was all there; it was just a case of an overly aggressive treatment of craquelure ...' .
Kate Lowry has noted: Glue relined. Stretcher dates from lining. Probably a pink/brown ground. This is fully covered by light tone of the sky but is visible in foreground where the paint is thinner. The trees are also very dark against the sky and the distant mountains are less well drawn. There is some loss of detail in the foreground due to overcleaning.