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Distant View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli (A View of the Villa of Maecenas and the Falls at Tivoli)
Private collection/photograph by David Penman
Richard Wilson and Studio
Distant View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli (A View of the Villa of Maecenas and the Falls at Tivoli)
1763-67 (undated)
Oil on canvas
228.6 x 182.9 cm
90 x 72 in.
Private Collection, England
P71A
The view is up the gorge of the River Aniene, showing the lower cascades in the middle distance and above them, the ruins of the so-called Villa of Maecenas or Temple of Hercules Victor. In the foreground a standing and kneeling woman are filling water jugs next to a large fragment of classical sculpture leaning against a Corinthian capital. The small building on the hillside is the Tempio della Tosse (Temple of Coughing), perhaps a tomb. In the background is a mountain and trees are silhouetted against the sky at the left and right.
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Pictures from Ince Blundell Hall, 3-30 April, 1960 (6)
Commissioned 1763 by Henry Blundell for the drawing room of Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool; Mrs Montagu, Ince Blundell Hall; thence by descent
Unsigned; no inscription
[1] Gilded label on frame: '42 | RUINS AT TIVOLI. | (MAECENAS' VILLA) | RICHARD WILSON. 1740'
The 'Villa of Maecenas' occupied a particularly lofty position in the esteem of British Grand Tourists since it brought to mind the most famous of all Roman cultural patrons. Maecenas had been one of the greatest Roman benefactors of the arts but was also perceived as the personification of decadent luxury. What were believed to be the ruins of his villa thus embodied both a high point of classical civilisation and the cause of its collapse. Hence this classical landscape held a moral lesson for the contemporary viewer.
D164 Landscape with a large Temple, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
D260 Villa of Maecenas, Tate, London
See 'Links' tab
P119 Landscape with Phaeton's Petition to Apollo
P127 The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle
P142 Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl and the Campagna -I
[1] Claude-Joseph Vernet The Falls of Tivoli (1753, WGC pl. 151b)
[2] Francis Towne (1739-1816): The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli from below the Falls, watercolour, 1781, The British Museum (Nn,3.8)
One of four paintings commissioned by Henry Blundell for Ince Hall and painted with the help of assistants including Joseph Farington. The others were P119 Landscape with Phaeton's Petition to Apollo, P127 The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle and P142 Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl and the Campagna -I . These must date from between 17 June 1763 and 1767, the years of Farington's apprenticeship to Wilson. 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.
42
226
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. 224-25, no. XLII - Ruins at Tivoli; Spiker 1820, vol. I, p. 314; Wright 1824, pp. 101-102; Waagen 1854, vol. 3, p. 249, Letter XXVII, Ince: '1 and 2. Two of the largest and most admirable of his landscapes'; WGC, pp. 43, 72, 116, 163-64, 226, pl. 119a version 4
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 commented on P71A, 'The remains of Mesaenas's [sic] villa at Tivoli, with its beautiful cascade, which runs from under the ruins, form a fine picturesque scene, which is much admired by virtuosi. Below are some country girls carrying water from a fountain, which is said to be the Fons Blandusia of Horace, which he celebrates in that beautiful ode, b.3. o. 13. [...] Near this fountain Horace is supposed to have had a villa. [...] On one side is seen a curious octagonal temple, which was dedicated to a vestal virgin called Tutia, by others Tuccia, who is related by Pliny, to have carried water from the Tiber to the temple of Vesta in a sieve, as a proof of her continence. [...] Tutia was said to be the goddess of coughs, and to have had frequent offerings made her, from people afflicted with that disorder. Painted by Wilson, and placed by him in the [unidentified] exhibition as one of his favourite pictures.'
Kate Lowry has noted:
Frame: Gilt, carved moulding, possibly contemporary with the painting. Some minor losses of moulding at upper edge. Not glazed and probably not backed. The reverse was not examined. Support: Simple weave linen canvas. Probably glue lined and mounted on a stretcher. The original canvas appears to be a single piece, with no seams visible. It was not possible to view the back of the painting but for such a large canvas of this age to be so well in plane suggests that a lining treatment has taken place at some point. Attachment to the stretcher is good, and there is no cockling or slackness in the support. The original canvas, lining and stretcher all appear to be in good condition. Priming or ground: This is probably pale grey in colour and underlies the whole of the paint layer. In the area of the waterfall it appears to be overlaid by a thin brown underpaint. Paint film: The style of painting, the composition and choice of foreground motifs, the rocks, logs, and leaves are all typical of Wilson. The shadow falling diagonally across the villa in the background helps to lead the viewer's eye around the painting in a very satisfactory way. Of the two foreground figures the kneeling one is perhaps slightly cruder in proportions, and the broken capital and fallen statue are less well-painted than one would normally expect of Wilson. These features might be indications of the collaboration of his students in execution of this work, as recorded by his pupil, Joseph Farington. The raised craquelure in the lower part of the painting has led to some small losses of paint and ground. In the sky below the pine tree at the left there are some brownish marks which may possibly be unretouched fills. Apart from these features the painting appears to be in good condition. Surface film: A resin varnish film covers the paint film and this has yellowed somewhat, suggesting the work has not been cleaned in recent years. The varnish on the sky to the right of the villa's tower appears paler and may have been rubbed here. Otherwise generally in good condition.
14/05/2021