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'Il Mascherone,' a Rocaille Fountain in the Grounds of the Villa Borghese
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Leonora Gurley Memorial
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
'Il Mascherone,' a Rocaille Fountain in the Grounds of the Villa Borghese
c. 1754 (undated)
Black chalk over graphite heightened with white chalk on blue laid paper, laid down on card
200 x 235 mm
7 7/8 x 9 1/4 in.
Before a half-drawn classical building the right half of a rocky fountain and grotesque colossal head are shown. From the open mouth of the latter water pours down. A small river god lies in front of this cascade. At the lower left is a simplified study of a double-headed bird.
London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (42)
Puttick & Simpson, 17 February 1916; Leonora Gurley; acquired by the Art Institute, 1922
Unsigned; no inscription
The detailed depiction of one half of a building or feature only was a well-tried convention of contemporary architectural draughtsmen
[1] Recto lower right: Leonora Gurley
[1] Upper centre, ink in reverse from recto and vertical, an illegible initial and name
[3] Lower centre, sale stamp: BOUGHT FEB. 17, 1916 / PUTTICK & SIMPSON
[4] Lower centre, pencil: Richard Wilson. Study of a Fountain 7/6
[5] Lower left, black ink: 22.1672
[6] Lower left, pencil: ?81
[7] Lower left, red crayon: 15 [within a circle]
The subject is a waterspout known as 'il mascherone' (the grotesque mask'), which stood in the grounds of the Villa Borghese from the early 17th century until its demolition in 1790.
The Rocaille Fountain called 'Il Mascherone' in the Villa Borghese Gardens, 1754 or 1755, location unknown, formerly on the London art market
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This is the first preparatory design that is known for any of the drawings made by Wilson for the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. There are apparent discrepancies of scale between the foreground river god, the fountain head and the architecture which, together with its unfinished state indicate the work's role as a first study, taken on the spot. The final drawing has been lost relatively recently.
Solkin 1978, p. 404, pl. 15b; Solkin 1982, p. 167
Discoloured round all four edges, presumably from the glue used to lay it down.