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The Convent on the Rock (Santa Maria Aventina)
Courtesy of the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Convent on the Rock (Santa Maria Aventina)
Oil on canvas
34.3 x 43.2 cm
13 1/2 x 17 in.
P0808
P94A
At the right a renaissance building surmounts a classical structure which has been built on a rock or artificial rampart. In the centre foreground a man sits resting by a rock and a woman with a baby in arms stands next to him. The ground falls away to a river and bridge at the left.
Perhaps BI 1817 (30 lent Benjamin West)
Perhaps Benjamin West sale, Christie's 28 May 1824 (20), bt Rogers; Samuel Rogers sale, Christie's 28 April 1856 (712 'Italian Landscape with a convent on a rocky height ... From President West's Collection'), bt W. Sharp; Col. M.H. Grant; bt October 1946 by Lt. Col. R.H.R. Brocklebank; bequeathed by him to Magdalen College, Oxford, 1965
A number of locations have been proposed over the years, all of which Constable dismissed, apart from Sta Maria Aventina, which he believe fitted the composition in some respects but not all, notably the inclusion of the bridge at the left, which occupies the position of the Pons Sublicius, destroyed in 780 AD.
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[1] J.M.W. Turner, Wilson Sketchbook, 1796-97, p. pp. 98-99, Tate, London
As noted by Constable, this version differs from P94 (Upton House collection) in minor details and in having a tower beyond the bridge at the extreme left, as well as omitting the stick resting against the rock in the right foreground. In 1803 Farington recorded that '[Benjamin] West [P.R.A.] has been cleaning his collection of pictures. ... He dwelt upon his little picture of the Convent on the Rock by Wilson, saying it was coloured equal to Cuyp or Both & in parts like Titian' ( Diary 2 October 1803).
WGC, p. 198, pl. 76a (version 3); H. Brocklebank, A Turn or two I'll walk to still my beating Mind: Commentary on a Private Collection, London, 1955, pp. 45-51; Farington Diary, vol. 6, pp. 2136-37
The present title is the title that was used by Farington. Others abound, including View in Italy, , Convento della Vittoria and Sta Maria Aventina.