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Lake Avernus - II
Private Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lake Avernus - II
Oil on canvas
54 x 84 cm
21 1/4 x 33 1/16 in.
Private Collection, England
A view across the lake towards a lengthy bridge with buildings and a tower some way behind and water and mountains beyond. In the foreground, on the left, an umbrella pine and another tree frame the scene. In the centre are three figures, two men, one seated on a stone and one woman, gesticulating. To the right are an open ancient sarcophagus, a sunlit avenue of trees, woodland and a hill surmounted by a ruin. Behind the group of figures a boy bends down to his boat on the lake.
Lady Gladstone, (Lake Nemi) [?]; [...] Sir William Agnew, Rougham Hall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk; by descent; Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers, Newmarket, November 21, 2018 (900 - unsold)
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
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[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.
Probably WGC pp. 194-95, p. 96b (version 2)
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. P123C appears to be such a later replica.