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Torre delle Grotte near Naples
Private Collection, Yorkshire / Photograph by Jerry Hardman-Jones
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Torre delle Grotte near Naples
1758-59 (undated)
47 x 72.4 cm
18 1/2 x 28 1/2 in.
Private Collection, Yorkshire
P70
View of caves cut into a cliff-face, across a stretch of sea, with a square tower on the height and a stone arch projecting into the sea on the left. This side of the bay, men in a small barge can be seen in the left foreground and there are other sailing craft in the distance. Before the sea-arch is a floating platform for mooring or to act as a buoy.
York, Masterpieces form Yorkshire Houses, 1951 (51); Leicester 1953 (79); London, Royal Academy, Italian Art and Britain, 1960 (162); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (78)
Probably bt by Sir William St Quintin, Bart (c.1699-1770); by descent to Mrs M. L'Estrange Malone; thence by descent
Signed on the rock lower right: RW [monogram, the R reversed]
Saturated colours with sumptuous blues in the sky, painted over a standard pale ground. It seems possible that the rocks to the left of the arches have been extended to cover some of the lower parts of the tower and adjacent buildings.
[1] On upper horizontal member of frame in black ink in an old hand: 64
It has recently been shown by Martin Postle that the scene is of Torregaveta, a craggy outcrop on the Phlegraean peninsula to the east of Naples (Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 295). 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 (T09300)
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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P82 The Bridge of Augustus at Rimini, Private Collection, Yorkshire (Pendant)
The monogram signature of this work is simpler and more conventional than that of its pendant. The sunset at the left is subtly rendered with diagonal rays ascending through the roseate glow in prefigurement of Turner. Behind the rocks dark storm clouds are gathering as evening draws on apace. In counterpoint to it is the diagonal formed by the succession of boats receding towards the horizon. In the foreground there is some ambiguity in the extent of the sea towards the shoreline and rocks. The composition is unusual among Wilson's Italian views of this period as it has no 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.
E.K. Waterhouse, 'Exhibitions of Old Masters at Newcastle, York and Perth', Burlington Magazine, vol. 93, August 1951, pp. 262 & 264, no. 20; WGC, p. 199, pl. 78a (version 2)
Either this painting or its pendant, The Bridge at Rimini (see 'Related Paintings' above), is alluded to in an account book of the collection in an entry under the year 1759: 'A Picture Wilson 13 gns'.
In original gilt frame. Oil on canvas, recently glue relined and on a five-member stretcher probably dating from previous lining. Original ground colour is pale, off-white. Immediate foreground under-painted dark brown. Paint application is quite liquid with bright highlights in the manner of Canaletto. The figures in the foreground boats and the sunset clouds with dispersed rays are particularly good. Some mature cracks but no drying cracks visible. In excellent condition.

25/07/2020