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The Cascatelli of Tivoli and Villa of Maecenas
Private Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Cascatelli of Tivoli and Villa of Maecenas
c.1752 (undated)_
Oil on canvas
42 x 72 cm
16 1/2 x 28 3/8 in.
Private Collection, North America
P44B
At the left an artist sits on a folding stool at a portable easel, painting the classic view of the great waterfalls and town of Tivoli, seen from across the gorge of the River Aniene with the ruins of the so-called Villa of Maecenas beyond and a vista of the Roman Campagna unfolding in the distance.
New York 2010 (4)
Signed lower left: R.W.
No inscription
Like the version in Dublin (P44), this work is painted in an unusually broad and lively manner, especially apparent in the distant view of the Campagna where the landscape forms are only sketchily indicated. The handle of the brush was used to scratch quickly through the thinly applied wet paint, giving a sense of texture and depth. Wilson is known to have used this technique in only one other instance, P45 Tivoli: The Temple of the Sibyl and the Campagna in the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland, acquired by Joseph Henry in 1752, which would suggest that this painting is of a similar early date. These technical devices suggest that the painting was executed at one sitting and at great speed in a probable attempt by the artist to capture the fading light of the sunset. The modest scale and spontaneous nature of the work suggest that it may have been painted en plein air. It is known that Wilson encouraged his protege Thomas Jones to paint in this way.
Tivoli and its surroundings were the first topographical subjects painted by Wilson in Italy in 1752. Located about 20 miles northeast of Rome, Tivoli (known in ancient times as Tibur) was celebrated by Virgil and Horace for the spectacular beauty of its setting and from the 16th century, was renowned for its magnificent classical ruins. By Wilson's time it had become a key destination for artists and Grand Tourists and Wilson seems to have made a number of excursions there during his Roman stay. The allure of the location must have been greatly enhanced by the fact that Claude and Dughet had gone there to draw in the 17th century and had incorporated its scenery into their paintings.
D244 The Falls at Tivoli, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
E56 Anonymous after Wilson, Maecenas' Villa, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
E75 Turner after Wilson, Maecenas' Villa, The British Museum
E76 Turner after Wilson, View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
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Thomas Jones A Shepherd and Shepherdess grazing their Herd before the Cascatelle at Tivoli , Bonham's London 8 December 2010 (58)William Hodges, The Cascatelle at Tivoli, c. 1775-79,
John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London
John Plimmer, Tivoli, the Cascatelli Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Swansea
Wilson's close attention to nature is evident in the treatment of the sky, where the movements of the clouds and fleeting effects of the light from the setting sun have been captured with extraordinary freshness.
WGC, pp. 82, 225, under pl. 117a; P. Conisbee, 'Tivoli: The Cascatelli and the Villa of Maecenas' in In the Light of Italy: Corot and early open-air Painting, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1996, p. 111; Feigen 2010 (4)
Unrecorded prior to 2010 and the only version signed by the artist
Period Italian carved and gilded frame