Lago d'Agnano with Vesuvius in the Distance (Lago d'Agnano - I)

Lago d'Agnano with Vesuvius in the Distance (Lago d'Agnano - I)
Lago d'Agnano with Vesuvius in the Distance (Lago d'Agnano - I)
Lago d'Agnano with Vesuvius in the Distance (Lago d'Agnano - I)
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Lago d'Agnano with Vesuvius in the Distance (Lago d'Agnano - I)
c.1770-75 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 44.5 x 52.7 cm
Imperial: 17 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
Lago d'Agnano, formerly situated eight kilometres west of Naples, is seen from the west, looking southeast across the lake and crater, past Naples towards Mount Vesuvius, smoking in the distance to the left. The peninsula of Sorrento is seen in the centre and the island of Capri on the right. Two women are in conversation in the centre-right foreground and a small boat plies the lake beyond them.
Richmond 1963 (18); London 1964-65 (56); New Haven 1965 (225); New Haven 1981 (2); London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-3 (141); Rome 2014 (78)
Agnews; acquired in the 1880s by the Hon. Robert Bruce and thereafter by family descent through Lady Elizabeth Babington-Smith to H.G. Babington-Smith; sold 1962 to Agnews; purchased by Paul Mellon, July 1962
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
Much smooth impasto but the handling is juicy and broad, including the figures in the foreground. Canvas shows through lower right and elsewhere, for example mid left. Possible pentimento mid-right edge over silhouette of trees. Little articulation in trees and hedges. Line of joining at horizon is normal. Very empty, but suffused sky with no birds. There are quite large areas of thinly-brushed paint in the foreground.
The waterfilled volcanic crater near Naples was a popular resort in ancient times on account of its hot, sulphurous springs but was drained in the 1870s in order to limit the spread of mosquito-borne malaria. It had been a major attraction for eighteenth-century Grand Tourists.
Related Drawings
D177 The Lago di Agnano, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1967.18)
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Related Paintings
Pendant: P48A Lago d'Agnano with the Grotta del Cane II, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven
Critical commentary
This painting and its companion (P48A) are characteristic of the Italian landscapes that Wilson painted in England towards the end of his career. They are among the purer works of this period, all detail being sacrificed to the evocation of light and air, but without the clarity of light and precision of his earlier works. His tendency at this stage was to model forms by juxtaposing visible brush-strokes of different hues. Though late, this painting is based on a much earlier drawing (D177).
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
PM 1150
Object ID: 1142
WGC, pp. 190-91, pl. 63a (version 1); Taylor 1963, cat. 18, pl. 210; Taylor 1964, cat. 56; Taylor 1965, cat. 225, pl. 71; Herrmann 1973, p. 56; Brown 1982, pp. 661-62, cat. 1892; Solkin 1982, p. 246, no. 141; Cormack 1985, pp. 254 & 255; Hogarth Reynolds Turner 2014, p. 286, repr. p. 228
Location featured in work
Lake Agnano, Italy
More Information
It was landscapes such as this, partially based on the landscapes of Claude Lorrain but more generalised in atmosphere and representing actual views, that largely formed the idea of Italian landscape current in England during the second half of the 18th century. They were eagerly copied and emulated after Wilson's death.
Normal weave canvas. Little and shallow craquelure - fine lines and squares in the sky. Foamboard backboard.
Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas is a simple loose-weave linen with many uneven threads; 12 warps x13 weft threads per sq cm. All original turnover edges retained at the time of lining. Attached to stretcher through original and lining turnovers with hand made tacks. Paste lining is probably 19th century and stretcher dates from this treatment. Four member stretcher with provision for keying out. Commercially prepared white, oil ground covers all upper surface of canvas including turnovers. IR imaging does not show underdrawing. X-ray image shows that the smoke from the volcano was scratched through thick wet pale yellow paint and then painted in with a grey paint. Under magnification the smoke contains black and larger blue particles. XRF analysis shows presence of Prussian blue and earth pigments in the landscape, possibly ultramarine in sky. Under UV the few retouchings are largely in the foreground.
Updated by Compiler
2022-06-14 00:00:00