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Acqua Acetosa (View down the Tiber with Bernini's Edicola on the Left)
Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts, Japan
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Acqua Acetosa (View down the Tiber with Bernini's Edicola on the Left)
c.1754 (undated)
Oil on canvas
99.1 x 137.2 cm
39 x 54 in.
P53
In the foreground of a serene riverscape framed by dark trees and backed by silvery mountains a group of men are playing bowls - a contemporary point of reference, in contrast to the overall grandeur of the composition and its intellectual and historical references. More distant figures are strenuously engaged in towing a barge at the edge of the Tiber and a seated figure is drawing in the peaceful enclave of the Edicola.
BI Loan Exhibition 1852 (129 - Italian Landscape, lent the Revd Harvey [sic] Lee; Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts & Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, Sun, Wind & Rain 1992-93 (16)
Possibly Stephen Beckingham the Elder, commissioned by him with three other paintings in 1754; the Revd Harry Lee (1793-1880), Rector of North Bradley near Trowbridge, Wiltshire from 1832; W.B. Lee, North Bradley; Private Collection, West Country c.1960-1990; with Agnew & Co. Ltd, 1991; acquired by the Tochigi Museum, 1996
The Acqua Acetosa is a spring famous for containing iron and tasting acidic (acetosa) at the foot of Mount Parioli, then just to the north of Rome. The spring was located near a beach of the Tiber and it was surrounded by trees, so was attractive to visitors, including Goethe, who recorded excursions there in 1787. The building to the left is the fountain, the Edicola, traditionally attributed to Bernini but more probably by Andrea Sacchi, and constructed to cover the spring in 1658-65. It is still standing and has recently been restored, though the area has long been subsumed into Rome.
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[1] Giuseppe Vasi, Fonte dell'Acqua Acetosa, etching, 1754
[2] Francis Towne (1739-1816): Banks of the Tiber, near Ponte Molle, watercolour, 1780, The British Museum (Nn,2.4)
[3] J.M.W. Turner, The River Tiber, Rome, with the Fontana dell'Acqua Acetosa and the Ponte Molle, graphite, 1819, St Peter's Sketchbook, fol. 39 a, Tate, London (D16225; Turner Bequest CLXXXVIII 39 a)
The view is downstream towards Rome. P53 is one of a small number of known landscapes painted by Wilson while actually in Italy. Other examples include P56, P57, P64, P66, P67 and P69. As a group, these may be counted among his most beautiful and occupy a unique place in the development of landscape painting. The present work evokes a feeling of wistful nostalgia - a characteristic of Wilson's Roman paintings, and largely here achieved through the contrast of the cool beauty of the distant landscape and the airy sky with the sombre tones and looming shapes of trees and broken masonry which decorate the foreground.
Absent from WGC; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 254, cat. 164
01/06/2020