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Dolbadarn Castle and Llyn Peris
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Felton Bequest, 1949)
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Dolbadarn Castle and Llyn Peris
c.1762-64 (undated)
Oil on canvas
96 x 131 cm
37 13/16 x 51 9/16 in.
2055-4
P120
The view is in Caernarvonshire, North Wales, looking south along the lake Llyn Peris, towards the ancient British fortress of Dolbadarn Castle with Snowdon in the distance. On the lake itself ducks are swimming and beyond boats are sailing. Cattle graze on the banks to the left and further back a country house with a walled garden is set on a hill. In the foreground two boys are fishing, one of whom has just caught an eel. Next to them a pitchfork or some spades lie discarded by the fallen tree trunk.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, The Great Eighteenth Century Exhibition, 1983 (no cat. nos); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (105)
Anon sale Christie's 15 July 1899 (67 Italian Riverscene, and Castle, 37 x 50 in.), bt Tooth; Pierpont Morgan, New York; his daughter, Mrs Herbert L. Satterlee, New York; Herbert L. Satterlee, New York; sold Parke Bernet, New York, 22 April 1948 (21 Pozzuoli from across the Bay of Baiae), bt Weitzner, New York; 1948, with Arthur Tooth & Sons, London; acquired on the advice of A.J.L. McDonnell and Sir Kenneth Clark for the Felton Bequest in 1948; arrived Melbourne in 1949
Signed on the rock at the left: RW [monogram, the R reversed]
Very beautifully differentiated technique and fresh impasto in the clouds. The details of the distant figures, animals and boats are carefully painted, as is the variegated foreground undergrowth. The horizon line is drawn down from the sky in the accustomed Wilson manner. A possible third figure or tree stump is discernible to the naked eye behind and to the left of the fisherman with the eel.
Dolbadarn Castle was built by Llywelyn Fawr in the early 13th century. It was an important stronghold of the princes of Gwynedd and commanded the route from Caernarvon to the upper valley of the Conwy. According to Thomas Pennant, the fortress was intended to defend the pass into the interior parts of Snowdonia and was used as a state prison (A Tour in Wales, II, 1783, p.165). In the various versions the subject has been given a number of different titles.
D343 Dolbadarn Castle and Llyn Peris, The British Museum
E78/2 Havell after Wilson, The Ruined Fortress, The British Museum
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P127 The Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
P112 View in Windsor Great Park, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Gaspard Dughet, Ideal Landcape , c.1658-1660, Glasgow Museums
Paul Sandby Llyn Peris and Dolbadaran Castle, 1764, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
George Barret, Llanberis Lake and Dolbadarn Castle in the Mountains of Wales, 1777, Nottingham Castle Art Gallery and Museum, Nottingham
As recognised by David Solkin, this may have been the first Welsh landscape that Wilson painted after his stay in Italy. In a deliberate attempt to add serious intellectual meaning to an exercise in landscape topography he has forced the rugged contours of the natural site into the civilising contours of classical landscape art. As a result the picture hardly resembles the actual place. Dolbadarn Castle itself, however, has acquired added status as a ruin symbolic of Britain's glorious past. The composition was used again by Wilson in about 1764/65 in P127 Lake of Nemi or Speculum Dianae with Dolbadarn Castle, Bristol City Art Gallery.
Pennant 1784, p. 157; WGC, pp. 89, 100, 176, pl. 37b; Hoff 1973, pp. 163-66; D.H. Solkin 1981, CXXXIII, July 1981, p. 413, fig. 26; Solkin 1982, pp. 215-16 and chapter IV; J. Clark, The Great Eighteenth Century Exhibition, Melbourne 1983, pp. 96-97; Tomory & Gaston 1989, p. 52, no. 141, repr.; Hoff 1995, pp. 319-20
In a period or19th century frame. Glazed. Cleaned before acquisition. Relined. Probably at the time of relining the paint surface was extended by strip of about 2.5 cm at the top and bottom, perhaps to fit a frame. There are some old repaired damages to the sky.