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Lake Avernus - I (View in Italy, Lake Avernus)
Courtesy of the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lake Avernus - I (View in Italy, Lake Avernus)
Oil on canvas
39.4 x 52.7 cm
15 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.
'The location is not certain but has been identified as including the Tempio d'Apollo (the ruins of magnificent thermae) and the scene is certainly based on views in the Phlegraean Fields but rearranged with Wilsonian licence. The elements are Lago d'Averno, Lago Lucrino (middle distance) Golfo di Baia (distance) and the mountain is Monte gauro, or Barbaro' (Dr R.T. Gunther, 'Keeper of the old Ashmolean', cited in Brocklebank, p.42). A fisherman has come up from the lake and offers his catch to the two figures beside him. His comrade stows away their nets in the boat while a third figure tends the boat below left. A large sarcophagus with its lid tilted against its side is on the bank near them.
Col. M.H. Grant; bt by Lt Col. R.H.R. Brocklebank Stratford-upon-Avon, May 1935; bequeathed to Magdalen College 1965
Unsigned; no inscription
Tree painted over a reserve; horizon line drawn down as normal. The drawing of the building on top of the cliff is visible and not exactly filled in. The skyline/tree junction to the right is normal, as are the clouds and figures.
Lake Avernus lies on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, about a mile from Cumae. Filling the crater of an extinct volcano, mephitic vapours rise from its waters, precluding life on its banks, because of which it was believed to be the entrance to the Underworld by the Ancients. Thus in Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas sacrifices to the gods in the shadow of the forest surrounding Lake Avernus and then follows the Delphic sibyl into her cave and down in to the Underworld.
E16 Roberts after Wilson, A View in Italy, The British Museum
E16A Roberts after Wilson, Lake Avernus (A View in Italy), National Museum Wales, Cardiff
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Sotheby's Reference No.: 791
WGC, p. 195, pl. 69a (version 5); Lt Col. H. Brocklebank, A Turn or Two I'll Walk to Still my beating Mind: Commentary on a Private Collection, London 1955, pp. 39-44
Discoloured varnish; normal craquelure. Framed in an 18th century rococo Chippendale carved wood gilt frame