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Narcissus
Private Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Narcissus
c.1752 (undated)
Oil on canvas
48.3 x 62.9 cm
19 x 24 3/4 in.
Location Unknown
P40
Before a wodland setting a nude male figure lies by a pool tenderly contemplating his own reflection
Painted for Ralph Howard, Viscount Wicklow from 1785; Earls of Wicklow; sold with contents of Shelton Abbey Arklow Ireland, Sotheby's London, 23 October 1950 (1644 - Landscape with male figures [sic] reclining in the foreground); Fr D.J. Lucey; Sotheby's, 1 Dec 1954, bt Burfitt
In classical mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae in Boeotia who was known for his beauty. On seeing his own reflection in a pool he fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image and, captivated, stared at it until he died.
One of Wilson's two and only nudes as such (see also P41). The pose of the figure has been suggested as deriving from Pompeo Batoni's much-copied Saint Mary Magdalene (c. 1740-42, destroyed). In Wilson's day this was in the Palazzo Merenda, Forli before passing to Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland by 1754.
Ford May 1951, p. 166, fig. 20; WGC, pl. 16a; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 255 under cat.165; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 58, fig. 49; E.P. Bowron, Pompeo Batoni: A complete Catalogue of his Paintings, 2016, vol. 1, pp. 57 & 179