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Torre delle Grotte near Naples
Private Collection, England / Photograph by Christopher Chard
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Torre delle Grotte near Naples
c.1758-59 (undated)
Oil on canvas
59.5 x 75 cm
23 7/16 x 29 1/2 in.
Private Collection, England
89
P70B
View of caves cut into a cliff-face, with a square tower on the height, seabirds circling above, arches below to the right and a stone arch projecting into the sea on the left. This side of the bay, men rowing a small barge with a canopy can be seen in the left foreground and there are other sailing craft in the distance.
Birmingham 1948-49 (44); London 1949 (43)
Sir John St. Aubyn, 3rd Bart, by 1816 [?]; thence by descent
Possible remains of a signature in dark paint on the rock lower right: RW [monogram, the R reversed]
[1] Centre of lower horizontal member of frame, pencil: Charles Thomas | & Son |Truro
[2] Centre of upper horizontal member of frame, faint pencil, inverted: Charles [?]
Verso:
[1] Exhibition label, centre of upper horizontal member of frame: City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery | R Wilson | 44 [encircled] | | Torre delle Grotte | Lent by Sir John Molesworth
[2] MS, lower left corner of frame: 113
It has recently been shown by Simon and Postle that the scene is of Torregaveta, a craggy outcrop on the Phlegraean peninsula to the east of Naples. Close to Baiae, Cumae and the volcanic lakes of Fusaro and Avernus, it had many classical associations. At the summit of the cliffs was the ruin of a villa fortress constructed by the Roman consul, Servilius Vatia (c.122-44 BC). The tower of the villa was still prominent in the 18th century but was damaged in the Second World War, by which time the rock face and the arches had also been much eroded.
D207 Torre delle Grotte, near Naples Tate, London
E35 William Hodges after Wilson, Twelve Etchings of Views in Italy - Torre Delle Grotte near Naples, 1776, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven (B1977.14.21011(d)) and other impressions
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The composition is unusual among Wilson's Italian views of this period as it has few overt references to antiquity or to Claude but seems to have been chosen rather for its picturesque qualities, thus corresponding with works painted after Wilson's return to England, in its more realistic rendition of natural details and romantic picturesque qualities.
WGC p. 199, pl. 78a
Kate Lowry has noted: Examined in frame, off the wall. The Rococo style frame is not original to the work. It is carved and gilded. No glazing or backboard present. Painting is held securely in frame with metal plates. Support: Simple, close weave linen canvas relined with wax-adhesive onto a similar weight linen canvas. Relining probably dates to the 1980s. Original turnovers removed at time of relining and attachment to the stretcher is by staples through the lining turnover. Present pine stretcher is not original and probably dates from relining. It has four narrow members, mitred corner joints and provision for keying out. All keys, bar one, are present. There is active woodworm in the lower stretcher member. The original canvas has not suffered any visible damages and attachment to the lining and stretcher is good. The painting support is quite flat and tension is good. Ground: The remains of the original turnover visible at the top edge indicate that the ground was commercially-prepared, pale grey in colour and smooth. The artist has applied a thin layer of pale pink underpaint over the ground in the sky area, left visible above the ruins, and a pale brown underpaint in the area of the sea below. The ground is is good condition and secure. Paint Film: Oil medium, quite thickly painted in the sky and the tower and rocks below it, more thinly painted in the sea and foreground rocks. A diagonal pentiment is visible in the sea at centre left edge. There is a network of mature cracks throughout and some fine drying cracks in the centre and left hand side of the sea in the foreground. There is no lifting of paint, which all appears secure. Examination under UV light showed there to be no major paint losses and only minor retouches scattered through the painting. No attempt has been made to retouch the likely monogram. Surface Film: UV examination revealed a fairly thick resin varnish overall. In normal light this appears slightly discoloured. All the retouches overlie this varnish film. There is no sign of any recent cleaning.
The general condition of the painting is good and needs no treatment, however the active woodworm in the lower stretcher member needs attention.
C.H. Collins Baker, British Painting, London 1933, pl. 54
12/12/2017