8 Items No items selected
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / The Bridgeman Art Library
Richard Wilson and Studio
Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Undated
Oil on canvas
40.7 x 50.8 cm
16 x 20 in.
WAG 317
P122
A view across the lake towards a ruined temple with hills beyond. In the foreground on the left, stands a tree. In the centre, there are three figures, two men, one seated on a log and a monk carrying a cross and gesticulating. To the right is an open tomb and more trees. Beyond the group of figures a man bends down to his boat on the lake.
Lake Avernus lies on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, about a mile from Cumae. Filling the crater of an extinct volcano, mephitic vapours rise from its waters, precluding life on its banks, because of which it was believed to be the entrance to the Underworld by the Ancients. Thus in Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas sacrifices to the gods in the shadow of the forest surrounding Lake Avernus and then follows the Delphic sibyl into her cave and down in to the Underworld.
E16 Roberts after Wilson, A View in Italy, The British Museum
E16A Roberts after Wilson, Lake Avernus (A View in Italy), National Museum Wales, Cardiff
See 'Links' tab
As described by Alex Kidson the composition 'is a familiar meditation on the spiritual distance between ancient Italy, represented by the ruined temple on the lakeshore and the opened sarcophagus, and the modern landscape in which the local inhabitants are unconcernedly fishing the lake for their daily catch.' Linking the two worlds is 'a learned monk, cautioning the fishermen about the lake's infernal reputation.'

Kidson has also noted that in comparison with some of the multiple versions of the subject, P122 'although a little coarse, is of fair quality' and close in detail [though in reverse] to James Roberts's engraving of 1765 (E16). Thus 'it is not unreasonable to suggest that even if it is largely the work of pupils working in his studio, Wilson himself may have touched on it.' It is also 'notable for revealing more clearly than any of the other versions that the robed figure in the centre is a monk, and that he carries a cross - this figure has elsewhere been identified as a sibyl or a local woman who has come to buy fish.'
Kidson 2012, pp. 272-73