Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)

This item is active and ready to use
Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Lake Avernus - I 
(Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool / The Bridgeman Art Library
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson and Studio
Lake Avernus - I (Classical Landscape, Lake Avernus)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 40.7 x 50.8 cm
Imperial: 16 x 20 in.
Accession Number
WAG 317
Wilson Online Reference
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 visible.
F.W. Crossley, J.P., Manchester; bt Agnew; bt George Holt (1825-1896), Sudley House, Aigburth, Liverpool, December 1895; his daughter, Emma Holt (1862-1944); Emma Holt Bequest, 1945
Lake Avernus lies on the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, about a mile from Cumae in 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 in to the Underworld. However, 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.
Related Prints
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
See 'Links' tab
Critical commentary
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
Updated by Compiler
2021-10-22 00:00:00