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Lake Avernus and the Island of Capri
City & County of Swansea: Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Collection
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lake Avernus and the Island of Capri
1752-56 (undated)
Oil on canvas
50.2 x 75.6 cm
19 3/4 x 29 3/4 in.
P928-1943
P93
The view is taken from a classic vantage point west of Pozzuoli, looking south across Lake Avernus, the Lucrine Lake behind and the narrow isthmus dividing the latter from the Bay of Baiae. In the background are the island of Capri, and on the extreme left, Vesuvius.
Swansea 1999 (unnumbered)
?Galerie Charles Brunner, Paris, 1923; with Sir Alec Martin; purchased 1943
Unsigned; no inscription
Lake Avernus, to the west on Naples, near Pozzuoli, lies in the volcanic region of the Phlegraean ('Burning') Fields. In classical mythology this was the site of the Underworld or 'Hades'. The entrance to Hades was said to lie in a nearby grotto, inhabited by the prophetess known as the Cumaean Sibyl. In Virgil's epic poem, The Aeneid, the Sibyl helps Aeneas, the Trojan prince, to enter Hades. There his father's ghost foretells his destiny as the founder of the Roman nation. Such associations made Lake Avernus a major attraction for landscape artists and travellers on the Grand Tour. The semi-ruined Temple of Apollo on the eastern shore of the lake to the left, was believed in Wilson's day to have been dedicated to Juno or Proserpina. In the left foreground is the cavern of the Cumaean Sibyl.
D257 Lake Avernus, Monte Nuovo, the Island of Capri and Part of Baiae, The British Museum
E85 Joseph Clayton Bentley after Wilson, Lake Avernus, The British Museum
E85A Joseph Clayton Bentley after Wilson, Lake Avernus, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
See 'Links' tab
[1] J.M.W. Turner, Aeneas and the Sibyl, Lake Avernus, c. 1798, Tate, London (N00463)
[2] Giovanni Battista Lusieri, View of Lake Averno, watercolour, 1786, Christie's New York, 29 January 2015 (112)
D257 or another version of it served as the basis for this painting. Referring to P93A, Robin Hamlyn noted that the association of the area with Apollo, to whom, on first landing in Italy, Aeneas vowed to build a temple, was reinforced by Wilson's showing the sun setting behind the temple; also that in the distance, beyond the Lucrine Lake, the presence of vessels pulled up on the shore almost seems a conscious evocation of the moment when Aeneas's fleet landed.
Inv.no. GV1943.928
Guide to the Collections of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea, 1970, p. 11; Themes and Variations 1999, pp. 20-21 repr.
Between 1752 and 1756 Wilson visited the area two or three times, working mainly out of doors around the Bay of Pozzuoli and at Lakes Agnano and Avernus.
Relined. The original support is in fine closely-woven linen in reasonable condition.
05/03/2021