The Head of Lake Nemi

The Head of Lake Nemi
The Head of Lake Nemi
The Head of Lake Nemi
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
title=Credit line
Imitator of Wilson
The Head of Lake Nemi
Oil on canvas
Metric: 63 x 76.8 cm
Imperial: 24 13/16 x 30 1/4 inches
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
A view of the head of Lake Nemi, with the town of Nemi beyond on the right, mountains in the distance and three figures seen from behind on a hilltop in the foreground. There are boats at the other end of the lake and a shepherd and his flock on the far left bank.
Perhaps BI 1814 (170); Grosvenor Gallery 1888 (180); London, Guildhall, 1902 (47); Brighton 1920 (17); London 1934 (212 - Lake Nemi); New Haven 1981 (17)
Benjamin Booth; the Revd R.S. Booth; Lady Ford; Richard Ford; Sir Francis Clare Ford; Capt. Richard Ford; his sale Christie's, 14 June 1929 (11); bt Agnew (3100 guineas); Hon. John Dewar; Lord Forteviot, Dupplin Castle; the Mount Trust Collection; sold by order of the Administrators, Christie's 22 June 1973 (135), bt Agnew; from whom purchased 1973
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
The brushwork is uncharacteristic, especially in the foreground, being far more crude than even in Wilson's late works. The church seems to be painted over the horizon. The figures are fussy yet not well drawn. The hillock is fluent but fussy and the water is dull. Brown details of undergrowth across the foreground are spiky and scattered. Details of the boats are dotty and wispy. The perspective of the lake at the left is dubious and the trees at the left have been added over the sky. The horizon does drop down with an impastoed line at the centre but the foliage is unarticulated, especially at the left. There is an ambiguous junction of the left bankside tree with the skyline.
[1] Torn Agnew label
[2] Agnew label #36286
[3] Lake Nemi | By | R. Wilson
[4] Unidentified red wax seal
Lake Nemi, also called Speculum Dianae, Diana's Mirror, is a small circular volcanic lake 19 miles (30 km) south of Rome. It takes its name from Nemi, the largest town in the area, that overlooks it from a height.
Related Drawings
D387/1 Lake Scene, Private Collection, England
Related Prints
E72/30 Thomas Hastings after Wilson, Untitled (The Head of Lake Nemi), The British Museum and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
Critical commentary
The composition is Wilsonian but it has been misunderstood (for example the scale of the building on the left) and is clumsy. The trees on the left and the figures are stylistically uncharacteristic. Although accepted as by Wilson by its first owner, Benjamin Booth, since before 1807, at least some of the picture, eg. the figures and boats, is evidently the work of a late eighteenth-century imitator or forger. Nevertheless the quality is quite high overall.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Object ID: 156
Booth Notes Doc. 5; Booth Notes Doc. 8; Booth Notes Doc. 9 (41); Wright 1824, p. 272; Commemorative Catalogue 1934, p. 33 (112); WGC p. 207, pl. 92a; Cormack 1985, pp. 254 & 255
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
Large lozenge-shaped craquelure. There is a backboard of an odd shape which does cover the canvas, but not the stretcher.
Updated by Compiler
2021-01-21 00:00:00