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A Weir on the River Po near Ferrara
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
A Weir on the River Po near Ferrara
Dated 1776 ['76] on back of canvas
Oil on canvas
23 cm diameter
9 1/8 in. diameter
WA1855.202
P197
Birmingham 1948 (46); London 1949 (45); Kenwood 1980(73)
Chambers Hall Gift, 1855
Inscribed on back of canvas : 'Rd Willson 1776 ['76] [/] River Po [/] near Ferrara'
[1] Richard Willson .776 | River Po near Ferrara.
The inscription is at present concealed but photographic evidence of it exists and according to Constable, the first figure is illegible and the second doubtful. He also believed the two lines of the inscription to be possibly by different hands, adding that in neither case does the writing look like Wilson's. Nor does there seem to be an example of his spelling his name with two l's.
Constable saw the locality of the view as uncertain since if the river is the Po, the surrounding country is quite unlike that near Ferrara or along the greater part of the Po Valley. There are hills nearer the source of the river but no evidence that Wilson ever went to Turin or the adjoining region. Other dubious identifications have been the Falls of Terni or Tivoli and the region near Velletri.
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At least six painted versions are known, plus two drawings. They may be based on the composition of two paintings by Gaspard Dughet - one a roundel in the collection of the Duke of Grafton at Euston Hall but in the collection of Dr Bragge when it was engraved in reverse by Knapton in 1741. Wilson's use of a small roundel shape is unique in his paintings and as Anne French has noted, suggests that he had a particular prototype in mind. The title of all the versions derives from the inscription on the back of this one.
A200
Grant 1926-47, vol. 1, p. 61; Bury 1947, p. 68; WGC, pp. 75, 96, 211, pl. 98a; Anne French, Gaspar Dughet called Gaspar Poussin 1615-75, exh. cat., Kenwood, London, p. 68, 1980 (73); The Ashmolean Museum: Complete Illustrated Catalogue of Paintings, 2004, p. 244
Relined, cleaned and varnished by Ayerst Hooker Buttery, 1910, when the inscription was hidden. In 1917, reported to be covered with a network of fine cracks, but in perfect and brilliant preservation.