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Torre delle Grotte, near Naples
John Mitchell Fine Paintings / The Bridgeman Art Library
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Torre delle Grotte, near Naples
Mid-1750s (undated)
Oil on canvas
49 x 66 cm
19 5/16 x 26 in.
P70A
View of caves cut into a cliff-face, with a square tower on the height and a stone arch projecting into the sea on the left. This side of the bay, men in a small barge can be seen in the left foreground and there are other sailing craft in the distance.
Long term loan to Birmingham City Art Gallery 1950-54; Colchester, The Minories, Essex & Suffolk Houses, 2-21 March 1964; long term loan to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 1970-99
With Shepherd Bros, London, 1913; acquired June 1913 by Thomas Walter Bacon (1863-1950); thence by descent to his son, A.W. Bacon (1902-1999); Sotheby's London, 15 June 2000 (80); John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London; with Anthony Mould Ltd, London 2002; Christie's New York, 8 June 2011 (79)

[?] Signed lower right on rock: R.W.
[?] Traces of monogram signature on awning of foreground boat
It has recently been shown by Simon and Postle that the scene is of Torregaveta, a craggy outcrop on the Phlegraean peninsula to the east of Naples. Close to Baiae, Cumae and the volcanic lakes of Fusaro and Avernus, it had many classical associations. At the summit of the cliffs was the ruin of a villa fortress constructed by the Roman consul, Servilius Vatia (c.122 44 BC). The tower of the villa was still prominent in the 18th century but was damaged in the Second World, by which time the rock face and the arches had also been much eroded.
D207 Torre delle Grotte, near Naples Tate, London (T09300)
E35 William Hodges 1776 pl. 4 in Twelve Etchings of Views in Italy - Torre Delle Grotte near Naples, 1776, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
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The composition is unusual among Wilson's Italian views of this period as it has no overt references to antiquity or to Claude but seems to have been chosen rather for its picturesque qualities, thus corresponding with works painted after Wilson's return to England, in its more realistic rendition of natural details and romantic picturesque qualities.
Bacon collection 169
Bury 1947, p. 69; WGC, p. 199, pl. 78a, b, (version 1); Solkin 1982, under 78; ; advertisement in The British Art Journal, vol 3, no. 3, Autumn 2002