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An Italian Landscape, Morning (River, Sea-Coast and circular Ruin) (The Temple of Venus at Baiae)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
An Italian Landscape, Morning (River, Sea-Coast and circular Ruin) (The Temple of Venus at Baiae)
c.1760-65 (undated)
Oil on canvas
70.2 x 94.6 cm
27 5/8 x 37 1/4 in.
B1981.25.690
P92B
A classical landscape, with a man and two women conversing by a lake or river on a high bank near an open sarcophagus with antique medallion motif in the left foreground. To the right are two arches of a ruined bridge with a ruined circular building above and behind. A carefully observed Italian building with campanile appears among trees to the left before a mountain in the distance.
Royal Academy, Old Masters, 1903 (10); Birmingham 1948-49 (14); London 1949 (13); New Haven 1981 (82); Tercentenary 2014 (100)
Sir Francis Cook 1st Bart (1817-1901), Doughty House, Richmond; by descent to Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook, 4th Bart (1907-1978); Thomas Agnew & Sons, from whom purchased 1965 by Paul Mellon
Unsigned; no inscription
Unusual for this period in its high tonality and for the coloured shadow of the standing woman. The impastoed reinforcement of the clouds is intrusive as the dark clouds by the horizon are flat. There are many impastoed foreground details. The trees at the right are painted over spaces but the sky has been left as space round the branches. Sky spaces have also been left and then reinforced under the arches. The tower and tree at the left are painted over the horizon. The descending horizon of the sky is normal for Wilson. The figures are quite well articulated and the sheen on the water is good. A lot of underpainting is showing through at the right. There are no birds in the large expanse of the sky but the foreground is detailed.
[1] Agnew's label on stretcher: No. 400
[2] '48' in chalk
[3] PM 1723
The exact location of the view has been much debated and the scene is almost certainly a capriccio centred on the so-called Temple of Venus at Baia near Naples (see Critical Commentary below). The marble sarcophagus in the foreground is very much an invention of Wilson's and cannot be considered conventional in form, with its square shape, flat open top and oval decoration.
D271 Bay of Baiae - Temple of Venus, Victoria & Albert Museum (Dyce.647)
E64 William Pengree Sherlock, River, Sea-Coast and circular Ruin ('Morning'), The British Museum (1873,0809.1415)
E72/14 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, Temple of Venus with Part of the Bay of Baiae, The British Museum
E72/40 Thomas Hastings Landscape (River, Sea Coast and circular Ruin), 1824, The British Museum (1854,0708.97)
E73 Samuel William Reynolds Morning, 1824, The British Museum (1879,0614.334) and other impressions
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The composition has been known under several titles, notably The Temple of Venus at Baiae but at first sight the temple does not seem to be the same building as in D271 or in the famous Turner painting of the Bay of Baiae in Tate, London (N00505). However, Robin Simon has recently observed that the building is in fact the same (actually baths rather than a temple) but seen from the opposite side, revealing the ruined open aspect of the structure. He further has identified the landscape in the middle distance as resembling the view looking out from the Bay of Pozzuoli and the town of Baia towards Naples - an area much favoured by Wilson. Another version, P92A River, Sea Coast and circular Ruin, Private Collection, England was mistakenly described as Vale of Narni when exhibited in 1925 at the Tate Gallery. The present work is typical of those Wilson produced in the decade or so after his return to London from Italy in 1759. It retains the freshness and delicacy of handling that mark the canvases painted in Italy, together with the brilliance and heightening of colours that are characteristic of his pictures c.1758-65.
Object ID: 71
M.W. Brockwell, Catalogue of the Pictures at Doughty House, Richmond, 1915, vol. 3, no. 403; Burlington Magazine, 1917, p. 118; WGC, pp. 217-18, 282, pl. 106a (version 1; image mistakenly used to illustrate P92A); Cormack 1985, pp. 252 & 253; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 283
The additional title, An Italian Landscape, Morning, appears to date from 1824, when one version of the picture was engraved. The sarcophagus has details in a roundel.
Framed in a rococo frame very close in design to that of P144 The White Monk I in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art. Good condition but with slight vertical craquelure. Foreground figures slightly rubbed. Some adjustment made of mismatched retouching along top edge by Lance Mayer & Gay Myers.