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The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
c.1752-58 (undated)
Oil on canvas
75.2 x 98.3 cm
29 5/8 x 38 11/16 in.
003353077
P90C
David 1st Baron Davies (1880-1944), Llandinam, Montgomeryshire; acquired by the National Library of Wales from his executors
Signed lower right on the sculpture plinth: RW [the R reversed]
Inscribed or possibly dated above the signature: 1752 [? or1758?]
Verso:
[1] Upper horizontal stretcher bar, left end on small blue-edged label, hand-written in black ink: a/69 [and] lower right corner, diagonally in blue crayon: 1345 [?]
[2] Central vertical stretcher bar, owner's label with stamp: LORD DAVIES / LLANDINAM [and handwritten below:] Main Library [and handwritten vertically, left:] TN/22
[3] Left vertical stretcher bar, lower end, printed: Llandinam / 37
D325 The Children of Niobe, The British Museum
D355 Figure Study for Niobe, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
E11 William Woollett, Niobe, 1761, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
E11A William Woollett, Niobe, 1761, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
E11B William Woollett, Niobe, 1761, The British Museum
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Constable noted that the design and the tree to the right are close to those in P90, the ex-Cumberland picture (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven). Major differences are the omission of Niobe and the figures round her, and of Artemis and Apollo, for whom a streak of lightning is substituted; also the castle on the left. More significant are surely the flaming building on the left and the inclusion on the right of the famous Antique sculpture group, Lion attacking a Horse, which Wilson would have seen on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. The two figures at the left centre, the recumbent women and the lower part of the tree all appear in the drawing D325 The Children of Niobe, British Museum. On grounds of style, Constable thought that this was perhaps the first version and Solkin agrees. If the earlier date is genuine that is confirmed, though 1752 seems unlikely on stylistic grounds. Furthermore the fine weave canvas does not support an Italian genesis. The composition is in reverse orientation to those of P90 and P90A (Private Collection at Ashridge, England).
(WlAbNL)003381769
WGC, p. 161, pl. 19b (version 4); Sutton & Clements 1968, vol. 2, p. 21, fig. 23; Solkin 1982, p. 199
In a heavy late Victorian classical frame, glazed. Dimensions framed: 105 x 135 cm. Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas is fine simple weave linen, later glued onto a similar weight canvas. The original turnovers were removed at the time of lining. The stretcher dates from the lining. The ground is deep red, the same colour as that of P90 and P90A. The canvas is, however, a much finer weave than those. Although the figures of Niobe and Apollo are absent from this version there are possible pentimenti in the areas where they would normally be found, at lower centre and upper right. Under UV light a small retouched fill is visible centre right to the right of the tree and there is some more general retouching at upper right. No retouching is evident in the signature or date. The painting has been selectively cleaned in the sky and at the edges of the main tree foliage.