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Lake Avernus - II
Tate, London 2014
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lake Avernus - II
c.1764 (undated)
Oil on canvas
24 x 30 cm
9 7/8 x 11 13/16 in.
N00267
P123
A view across the lake towards a lengthy bridge with buildings at its left end, a tower some way behind them and water and mountains beyond. In the foreground, on the left, two umbrella pines frame the scene. In the centre are three figures, two men, one seated on a stone and one woman, or perhaps a monk, gesticulating. To the right are an open ancient sarcophagus, woodland and a hill. Behind the group of figures a man bends down to his boat on the lake and further out another boat is visible.
Bequeathed to the National Gallery by Richard and Catherine Garnons, 1854; transferred to the Tate Gallery in 1919
Linen canvas, simple weave
Lake Avernus lies in a volcanic region on the south west coast of Italy, between Naples and Cumae. In classical mythology this area or 'Phlegraean Fields' (burning fields) was associated with the infernal regions. Because of its location among dark, gloomy woods and its reputed depth, Avernus was believed to be an entrance to the underworld. It was situated close to the grotto of Deiphobe, the Cumaean Sibyl, a celebrated prophetess, who in Virgil's Aeneid, conducted the Trojan prince, Aeneas, to the underworld to meet the spirit of his dead father.
D382 Italian Landscape with Umbrella Pine in Foreground, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Leonora Gurley Memorial Collection
E16 James Roberts after Wilson, A View in Italy, 1765, The British Museum and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
[1] J.M.W. Turner, Wilson Sketchbook, 1796-97, pp. 100-101, Tate, London
[2] William Delamotte (1775-1863), Lake Avernus, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1961.36)
Like many Grand Tourists Wilson, with his classical education, must have been attracted by the region's ancient associations as well as its great natural beauty. In contrast to the Claudean setting, his figures in the foreground appear to be simple fishermen, probably selling their catch to the figure on the right. P123 and other versions are compositionally close to P122 and versions, the main difference being the substitution of a prominent bridge for the 'Temple of Apollo' in the middle distance.
WGC, p. 194, pl. 69b
Wilson visited Lake Avernus to the north of Naples in 1752 and again in the spring of 1753 with his patron, William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth. As a result, he painted two pictures of the area. He himself, his pupils and copyists replicated both subjects on many occasions.
Relined. Surface cleaned and varnished 1887.
10/12/2021