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The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle (Diana and Callisto)
Bristol City Museum and Gallery, UK / The Bridgeman Art Library
Richard Wilson and Studio
The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle (Diana and Callisto)
1763-67 (undated)
Oil on canvas
228.4 x 183.5 cm
90 1/4 x 72 1/4 in.
BAG 140183
P127
In the foreground, Diana with her hounds points accusingly at Callisto, who is accompanied by three other nymphs. Behind is a lake giving onto cliffs and a ruined tower with mountans beyond.
Welsh Arts Council 1969 (40); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (106); Cardiff, Manchester and London, 2003-4 (16), shown at Cardiff only
Commissioned 1763 by Henry Blundell for the drawing room of Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool; his son, Charles Blundell; given to Sir John Gladstone, Bart, of Fasque, Kincardine, Scotland, executor of Charles Blundell's will; his third son, Captain R.N. Gladstone, Bowden Park, Chippenham, Wiltshire; his grand-daughter, the Hon. Mrs Geoffrey Parsons, Bowden Park, Wiltshire; Sotheby's 20 April 1955 (106), bt Agnew's; bt Bristol Museum and Art Gallery,27 April 1955.
Unsigned; no inscription
Callisto was a nymph seduced by Jupiter when disguised as Diana. The scene comes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, Book 2, lines 401-530 and especially 441-465, where the virgin huntress has just discovered her handmaiden's pregnancy and is banishing her. Callisto's child will be the forefather of the Arcadian people. Since ancient times Lake Nemi had been associated with the cult of the goddess. Virgil and other classical writers had described the smooth, clear waters of the rounded lake as the Speculum Dianae or Mirror of Diana and as such, it was frequently mentioned in 18th century guide-books, as well as in Blundell's 1803 catalogue (see Bibliography). Her famous sanctuary, the Grove of Diana, was on the northern shore of the lake, beneath the little town of Nemi (in Latin, Nemus Aricinum). However, the present landscape features Dolbadarn Castle in silhouette with Mount Snowdon beyond, though the classical connotations of the lake are strengthened by the introduction of Diana herself, chastising the errant nymph.
D105 Nemi, The British Museum
D343 Dolbadarn Castle and Llyn Peris, The British Museum
E13 Joseph Wood after Wilson, The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianæ, The British Museum
E82 Louis Marvy after Wilson, Lake Nemi or Speculum Dianæ, The British Museum
Hastings 1825, p. 18
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Claude, Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, 1646 National Gallery, London (NG 61)
This painting is essentially a repetition of the Stourhead version P127A, with variations in format and the introduction of Dolbadarn Castle in the background. Ovidian foreground figures are thus combined with a composition à la Dughet in an equation of the Welsh landscape with that of classical Italy. The commission was completed with the help of studio assistants in 1767. Farington states that the pictures were 'painted while I was with Him [Wilson] & were prepared and far advanced towards finishing by his pupils, but Wilson went over and regulated them.' (Diary, 26 June 1806). This fixes their date of execution between 17 June 1763, when Farington entered Wilson's studio and 1767, when he apparently left. It may also explain the greater than usual number of pentimenti in the work. In a diary entry of 28 October 1796 Farington stated 'Wilson was at Ince & saw Mr. Blundells rooms before He painted the 4 pictures. Three are upright and one square form. - Penny reccomended [sic] Wilson to Mr. Blundell.' A Liverpool picture dealer, Vernon, told Farington that Wilson offered to paint them for 50 guineas each but Blundell paid him 70 guineas. The character of the series as a whole reflects Henry Blundell's strong interest in the antique.
Object No: K2413
Farington Diary, vol. 3, p. 683 (28 October 1796) & vol. 7, pp. 2796-97 (26 June 1806); H. Blundell, An Account of the Statues and Paintings at Ince, 1803, pp. 225-26, no. XLV; Spiker 1820, vol. I, p. 314; Wright 1824, pp. 101-2; WGC, pp. 43, 72, 116, 164, pl. 23b; Solkin 1981, p. 43, fig.27; Solkin 1982, pp.94, 216-17; P. Joyner, ed., Dolbadarn: Studies on a Theme, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1990, p. 7 repr.; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 123-24, fig. 101.
Farington observed that Wilson received the commission via another painter, Edward Penny. However, it may also owe something to Blundell's wife, Elizabeth Mostyn, of the Flintshire Mostyns, to whom Wilson was related through his mother. Henry Blundell stated that Wilson 'himself fixed and suited these pictures to proper lights. [...] The haziness of the air in distant views is peculiar to Wilson. [...] This picture was placed in the exhibition, and much esteemed by him.' [Unrecorded in SA and RA catalogues].
In an old ornate frame but probably not original. Cleaned, revarnished and relined, April - June 1955. Kate Lowry has commented: Original canvas simple weave commercially prepared with beige coloured oil ground. Some of the unpainted ground still visible at turnover edges. Wax-relined in 1955 by John Bull to repair a vertical tear between the trunks of the two trees at the lower right of the composition. Original turnover edges retained at time of lining. Present stretcher, which probably dates from lining treatment, has seven members with provision for keying out. Minor drying cracks in the darks of the middle distance and minor damage to the paint in the cliff retouched on acquisition by Bristol Musuem and Art Gallery. Shortly after acquisition four puncture holes were made by a member of the public in and around the nude figure of Callisto in the foreground, which were subsequently repaired and restored. It was surface cleaned in 2002 and some minute flaking and cupping of paint in the areas of green paint were consolidated with wax-resin adhesive. A polyester sailcloth cami-lining was inserted behind the lined painting and attached to the stretcher reverse to give additional support. The relatively large number of pentimenti now visible may be due to the fact that this painting formed part of the series commissioned for Ince Hall which Farington recorded as being carried out with the assistance of Wilson's pupils. The previous horizon at the left was higher than the one we now see which allows the tower of the white building on the left to break the line of the present horizon giving it more prominence. There are also various pentimenti in the figures and changes to some branches of the trees at left and right. The blue paint in the sky covers the colour of the ground completely.
16/05/2018