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Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia, with the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli and the broken Bridge at Narni
Private Collection / Photograph by Christopher Chard
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia, with the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli and the broken Bridge at Narni
Dated lower right: 1755
Oil on canvas
96.5 x 134.9 cm
38 x 53 1/8 in.
Private Collection, England
None
P66A
In the lower left foreground a fortune-teller is in conversation with a red-haired shepherd and a girl. To the right four cows are driven by two men and a woman is seated with two children on a donkey.
George Cockburn; possibly purchased by Alexander de Pottonier in the late 19th century and thence by descent; Christie's, 10 June 1999 (13); Private Collection, England
Signed and dated in large characters lower right on the plinth of a spherical urn: RW. [/] 1755
Inscribed on the stone at left: ...IONI [/] AFRICANO [/] S.P.Q.R.
Pink ground is visible round the noses of the cattle and in the tree upper left. There is a pentimento branch in the fork of the right hand tree and also two pentimenti in the foliage of the tree at lower right. Small retouchings are visible under UV light in the sky around the tree. The sky is painted in ultramarine.
[1] Sale stencil in black ink upper left on stretcher: SG717
[1] On stretcher: George Cockburn [missing]
[2] Christie's small round label
[3] Christie's small round label
[4] Yellow round label with black ball-point number: 13
D228 Ionic Capitals, Private Collection, England
E72/27 Thomas Hastings Untitled (Landscape Capriccio on the Via Aemilia), The British Museum (1854,0708.84) and other impressions
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This is closely related to Claude Lorrain's Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, 1663, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, in Wilson's day at the Palazzo Colonna, Rome
Presumably this painting postdates P66 (Private Collection, New York) from which it is clearly distinguished by the dramatic sky and the reference to P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus. The inscription may be intended to suggest Scipio's tomb, although in actuality he died nearer Naples than Rome. The grouping of figures is unusually complex and well executed for Wilson, although there is no reason to doubt that he painted them himself. A strong visual message of the work is the history of declining ancient civilisation and its potential application to eighteenth-century Britain.
R. Simon, 'Richard Wilson's Scipio Landscape: A Painting for a Drawing', The British Art Journal, Vol. I, no. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 67-68; Wilson and Europe 2014 (fig.70)
Kate Lowry has noted: The work has been glue relined quite recently, possibly at the time of the sale in 1999. The stretcher which has five members and square mortice joints predates this lining, but is not original, suggesting that there was a previous relining treatment. The paint surface is quite smooth and all areas of the painting are fully finished.The original canvas weave could not be examined closely, but the smooth finish of the painting suggests that the canvas is a medium weight fabric with simple weave. It is likely that the ground preparation is pink in colour as this is visible around some shapes in the painting, where it has not been covered by the subsequent paint layers, for instance, around the cows in the centre foreground and around the trunks of the trees against the sky. The sky itself has probably been under-painted with white to cover the pink ground tone completely. The painting has been recently cleaned and the blue of the sky appears to be ultramarine. Under UV light no major damages are visible, but minor retouches are present in centre sky covering small cracks; there is also some strengthening of the tomb and foreground figures, and two pentimenti at the margins of the tree foliage at upper right have been touched out. There is no recent retouching of the signature and date at the lower right. On the whole the removal of the old varnish film has been more thorough in the sky and lighter areas of paint and less so in the darks. The condition is very good.