View of Tivoli: The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas

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View of Tivoli: The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas
View of Tivoli: The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas
View of Tivoli: The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas
Dulwich Picture Gallery / The Bridgeman Art Library
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
View of Tivoli: The Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas
Mid-1760s (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 73.3 x 97.2 cm
Imperial: 28 7/8 x 38 3/8 in.
Accession Number
DPG 171
Wilson Online Reference
The view is of the celebrated falls or cascatelle of Tivoli near Rome, looking down the gorge of the Aniene with the town of Tivoli above. Beyond it in the centre can be seen the ruins of the Sanctuary of Hercules Victor, formerly thought to be those of the Villa of the great artistic patron Maecenas. An artist is shown at the end of a day's work in the evening light, observed by a peasant woman carrying her baby. His pushed-down stockings and hat indicate that the heat of the day that has passed. He seems to be painting rather than drawing.
BI 12 August 1817, (92 as Landscape with a Waterfall, lent by Dulwich College, loan extended until end of November 'for the study of the Artists [who] attend the British School'); Dulwich College - A School and its Art, South London Art Gallery, 15 October-12 November 1981; Viaggio in Italia: Un corteo magico dal Cinquecento al Novecento, Genova, 2001 (VI.21); Rome 2014 (73)
Dr John Monro or Thomas Munro (his son), perhaps 1796; Mr Norris of Manchester; his sale, Wright, Liverpool, 14 March 1804 (49); presumably Philip Hill, picture dealer, Greek Street, Soho, London; bt Noel Desenfans for 150 guineas before 1807; bequeathed 1807 by Desenfans to Sir Francis Bourgeois; bequeathed 1811 by Bourgeois to Dulwich College, subject to a life interest of Desenfans's widow.
Unsigned; undated; no inscription
Techniques and materials
Kate Lowry has noted: The ground is the same reddish browns that were found in other Italian period paintings which could indicate that this painting is an early landscape rather than a late reworking of the subject. Overall, very thinly painted; the two rocks in the centre are probably the ground showing through. There is some strengthening at the top of the figures and the distant landscape is also retouched in places. The water is smudgy. Note the pink pigment under the tower. The trees upper left could be 1760s.
The subject was a favourite one for artists in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Related Drawings
D244 The Falls at Tivoli, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Related Prints
E56 Anonymous after Wilson, Maecenas' Villa, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
E75 Turner after Wilson,Maecenas' Villa, The British Museum
E76 Turner after Wilson, View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
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Related Works by Other Artists
[1] Thomas Jones A Shepherd and Shepherdess grazing their Herd before the Cascatelle at Tivoli , Bonham's London, 8 December 2010 (58)
[2] William Hodges, The Cascatelle at Tivoli, c. 1775-79, John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London
[3] John Plimmer, Tivoli, the Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Swansea (GV DF 2065)
Critical commentary
The overall effect of the evening light is beautiful and sensitive. Possibly painted en plein air at least in part and as an experimental landscape in the early 1750s. Another version of this painting is in the National Gallery of Ireland (P44). Unlike the present painting, P44 has only one foreground figure, the forground itself is less pronounced, without the bank of earth, and the plain in the distance is more open to view. Such differences are typical variations between versions of Wilson's favourite subjects. His style, using rather Venetian colouring and summary brushwork, does not resemble the approach of his more topographically painstaking predecessors of the 17th century. The inclusion of an artist at work need not be taken as proving that this painting itself was executed out of doors.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Farington Diary, vol. 4, p. 1136 (17 January 1799) & vol. 9, p. 3446 (3 May 1809); Wright 1824; Anon. Beauties of the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London 1824, p. 71; R. Ackermann, The Repository of the Arts, series II, vol. XIII, p.174; Hazlitt 1843-44, vol. 1, p. 36 & p. ix, no. 215; WGC, pp. 84, 225, pl. 117a; Solkin 1982, pp. 181-83; G. Waterfield, Collection for a King, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art; Washington DC & Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1985-86, p. 122 under cat. 36; R. Beresford, Dulwich Pictue Gallery. Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 1998, p. 262, cat. 171; exh. cat., G. Marcenaro & P. Boragina (eds), Viaggio in Italia: Un corteo magico dal Cinquecento al Novecento, Milan 2001, pp. 194-96, cat. VI.21: J. Ingamells, Dulwich Picture Gallery: British, 2008, pp. 122-23; Hogarth Reynolds Turner 2014, p. 286, repr. p. 223; A. Callen, The Work of Art, London 2015, pp. 64 & 280, n. 44
More Information
Visiting Sir Francis Bourgeois in May 1809, Farington reported: 'He shewed me a beautiful picture of Tivoli by Wilson, for which Desenfans gave Hill the picture dealer 150 guineas. Wilson had 25 or 30 for it. In it he represented himself with an Easel painting'. In Ackermann's Repository of the Arts a drawing for the painting is mentioned as exhibited at the Drawings Exhibition organised by W.B. Cooke in Soho Square: 'That of Tivoli, as it deviates from the picture in the Dulwich Gallery, is curious, as exhibiting the changes made for the sake of composition.' This drawing does not appear to survive. Ten years earlier, according to Farington, Bourgeois and Desenfans 'acknowledged that some years ago they did not like them [Wilson's pictures], from the execution being so slovenly compared with Loutherbourgh &c., but now delight in them.'
Continental limewood frame. There is infilled damage at the right edge and some strengthening at the top of the figures; the distant landscape is also retouched in places.Kate Lowry has noted: The support is a very loose weave canvas, c. 8 threads per sq cm, simple weave. The turnovers have been removed and the work has been glue lined. The lining was carried out by W. Holder, Brewer Street, London in 1911. (Holder's label on stretcher reverse) The stretcher dates from relining and has seven members with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. The ground is a dark red colour and is completely covered by the pale blue paint in the sky. Cross-section of sky paint sample shows a layer of white paint below the pale blue of the sky. In much of the foreground the ground tone is only lightly covered by paint so its red colour plays a part in the final appearance of the painting. Cleaned by Hell 1952-53 and by Caroline Hampton, National Maritime Museum in 1981. The condition report of 1981 before cleaning records that the lining treatment has flattened the paint film and caused moating around areas of impasto particularly in the foreground. There was also evidence that the artist made changes in the outlines of the foreground rocks and that there had once been a tree extending from the foreground to the horizon although it is not clear whether this was at the left or right of the composition. Under UV illumination there are minor retouches visible throughout the sky and around the foreground figures and heavier retouching down the right hand margin and centre sky. The distant landscape is also much retouched. No major damages. UV image exists from 1981. There are vertical cracks through paint and ground which suggest the work has been rolled, possibly for transport from Italy. Touches of pink on distant rocks and roofs suggest an evening scene.
Updated by Compiler
2022-06-06 00:00:00