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St Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum, Rome
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
St Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum, Rome
1757-64 (undated)
Oil on canvas
70.5 x 132 cm
27 3/4 x 52 in.
The view is from the heights of the Janiculum Hill in Trastevere, looking north-west over the Vatican and the Campagna. In the foreground are some antique fragments, reminders of Rome's glorious past. In the left middle distance is the Basilica of St Peter with the Vatican Palace to its right. In front of the latter is the shaded façade of the Quartiere di Cavalleggieri (Quarters of the Light Horse Guard). The colonnade and obelisk of the Piazza San Pietro are also visible. Behind the Vatican is Monte Mario and on the horizon Monte Soratte. In a shaft of sunlight a man and woman converse in the foreground. The man, evidently a pilgrim, is seated on an upturned Corinthian capital resting a staff on his shoulder. On the left two figures herd cattle and goats downhill. In the right foreground is a famous antique relief from the Medici collection showing Maenads leading a bull to sacrifice.
On loan to the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington DC by 1953; Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow & Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, European Painting 16th to 19th Centuries and Australian Painting of the 19th Century, 10 Sept 1979 - 18 Feb 1980 (39)
Commissioned by Sir William Young, Bart (1725-88) for Standlynch House, Wiltshire; bt after his death by William Hussey M.P. (1724-1813), Upper Eldon, Hampshire and Salisbury, Wiltshire; by descent to his son, William Hussey; bt from him by Sulley & Co, London, 1910; Blakeslee Galleries New York; sold American Art Association, Plaza Hotel, New York, 22 April 1915 (186 - Rome and the Campagna); bt F. Ward ($1500); on loan to National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington DC by 1953; Leggatt Bros, London; bt Thomas Agnew & Co. London, 9 December 1969 (#32521); purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 21 July 1970
Signed lower left on the grassy bank to the right of the milestone: RW. [monogram, the R reversed]
The ground is grey-brown in the lower section and lighter in the sky. The background is impressionistically painted, as is the child cuddled by the contadina in the foreground.
[1] Stretcher in red chalk or paint: 8
[2] Stretcher in black paint: 21.12.5.L
[3] Stretcher in pencil: 28 x 52
[4] Stretcher in white chalk: Wilson
[5] Recorded on frame in black or blue crayon but no longer visible: 76374 (twice)
[6] Recorded on frame in black or blue crayon but no longer visible: ANTI# 11360/ II III
[1] 19th-century paper label on stretcher inscribed in ink: 471
[2] Paper label on stretcher, typed: 93 [? changed in ink to 94]: Wilson View of Rome Campania (Sulley)
[3] Printed Agnew label on stretcher with stock number 32521 (stuck over and obscuring another label).
[4] Printed label recorded on frame, no longer visible: WI... CARE | M | Date
[5] Printed label recorded on frame, no longer visible: JAMES BOURLET & SONS, LTD., | Fine Art Packers, France Malius, | P17238 | 17 & 18 NASSAU STEET, | MORTIMER STREET, W.| Phones:- MUSEUM 1871 & 7588
The view is to the north-west from a point on the Janiculum Hill, a prospect now largely obscured by buildings. In antiquity the Janiculum Hill was known for noble villas, military triumphs, ancient burials and Christian martyrdoms. In the 17th and 18th centuries the area had associations with the Pamphilj family, one of whom, Cardinal Giovan Battista Pamphilj, reigned as Pope Innocent X from 1644 to 1655.
D204 View of St Peter's from the Palace of the Caesars, with the Circus Maximus below, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Leonora Gurley Memorial Collection
D311 View of St Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
E59 Samuel Middiman, View of Rome, for Forster's British Gallery of Engravings, 1807. This is an engraving of P57 (Tate, London) but the associated text mentions P57A as being in the possession of Mr Hussey.
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P56 Rome from the Villa Madama, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
P57A was one of a set of four canvases painted for Sir William Young of Standlynch House, Wiltshire. The estate was acquired by Young in 1752 and sold in 1766. The set is therefore datable to between Wilson's return from Italy in 1757 and the sale in 1766. The other paintings were Rome from the Villa Madama and Landscape with Diana and Callisto (both formerly in the Sir George Leon collection); and probably a version of Landscape with Diana and Actaeon. The unusual proportions of P57A may reflect their original site, perhaps as overdoors, at Standlynch. However, as noted by Richard Beresford, they must have been removed when Young sold the house in 1766 since they were still in his possession at his death in 1788. The frieze on the stone in the right foreground shows a sleeping girl and a bull illuminated by a lamp. A similar relief was once in the Medici collection and is now in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, with a copy in the Vatican Museum. The earliest version of the subject is P57, commissioned by Lord Dartmouth and now in Tate Britain. A variant composition in which the buildings appear closer is D311, part of the series of presentation drawings made for Dartmouth in 1754.
E. Forster, The British Gallery of Engravings, 1807, page facing plate 3; Illustrated Catalogue of the extensive Collection ... of the late Theron J. Blakeslee, American Art Association, New York, 21-23 April 1915 (186, repr.); Ford 1952, p. 312; WGC, pp. 75, 165, 220, pl. 111a; Constable 1954, p. 147; Master Paintings: Recent Acquisitions, exh. cat., Agnew's, London 1976, p. 40 under no. 49; European Painting 16th to 19th Centuries and Australian Painting of the 19th Century, exh. cat. in Russian, no. 39 (unpaginated); R. Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Catalogue of British Paintings, Sydney 1987, p. 214; Tomory & Gaston 1989, p. 52, no. 142 (repr.); R. Beresford, Catalogue of European Paintings, Art Gallery of New South Wales, vol. 1, 2014, pp. 149-52).
Housed in a Carlo Maratta frame: 94 x 155 x 10 cm. Relined on linen canvas; original canvas dimensions: 70 x 131 cm (27 9/16 x 51 9/16 in.) There are many minor losses and some old infills in the sky at the upper left and the light brown tree at the left. Soft resin varnish film.