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Lake Avernus - I
Philadelphia Museum of Art: The William L. Elkins Collection, 1924
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lake Avernus - I
c.1765
Oil on canvas
70.5 x 89.5 cm
27 3/4 x 35 1/4 in.
E1924-3-39
P122H
A view across the lake towards a large ruined building with hills and mountains beyond. In the foreground, on the left, stand some trees. In the centre, there are three figures, two men, one seated on a log and one woman, or perhaps a monk, gesticulating. To the right are an open ancient sarcophagus, woodland and a hill topped by ancient buildings. Behind the group of figures a man bends down to his boat on the lake and further out another boat is is visible.
The William Elkins Collection, 1924
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 Cumaean Sibyl into her cave and down into the Underworld.
E16 James Roberts after Wilson, A View in Italy, The British Museum
E16A James Roberts after Wilson, Lake Avernus (A View in Italy), National Museum Wales, Cardiff
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The exact location is not certain but has been identified as including the 'Temple of Apollo' and the scene is based on views in the Phlegraean Fields, rearranged with Wilsonian licence. The elements are Lake Avernus, Lake Lucrino (middle distance), the Bay of Baia (distance). The mountain is Monte Gauro.
01/12/2021