The Departure of Regulus

The Departure of Regulus
The Departure of Regulus
The Departure of Regulus
Private Collection, England
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Departure of Regulus
Dated 1752
Oil on canvas
Metric: 73.6 x 99 cm
Imperial: 29 x 39 in.
Private Collection, England
Wilson Online Reference
BI 1853 (144 - lent Earl of Wicklow); London, J.A. Tooth Galleries 1951 (7 repr.); London Arts Council, The Age of Neo-Classicism, 1972 (278)
Commissioned by James Russel for Ralph Howard, later Viscount Wicklow; by descent to William Cecil James, 8th Earl of Wicklow, Shelton Abbey, Arklow, Co. Wicklow, Ireland; Sotheby's London, 23 October 1950 (1575) as one of a Set of 4 Rocky Landscapes and Figures by 'Salveta Rosa'; bt J.A.Tooth, London; with Colnaghi & Co., London; bt Brinsley Ford, 1953; thence by descent
Dated and possibly also signed at lower left corner on sarcophagus/altar in black paint with lighter lines of modelling: RW [?] 1752
Techniques and materials
It has been noted that in both P54 and P55 the figures are modelled on Poussin while the trees reflect Wilson's study of Venetian painting.
[1] Lower right vertical member of stretcher: Remains of printed label of Charles Roberson: From C. Roberson [...]
[2] Lower right vertical member of frame, manuscript label in black ink: 8793
The subject is taken from the ancient Roman authors, Cicero (De Officiis), Livy (iEp.18) and Horace (Odes Book 3, 5). Regulus, a Roman general, was taken prisoner by the Carthaginians during the Punic Wars and sent on an embassy to Rome in 250 BC to offer terms of peace or an exchange of prisoners on condition that he returned if the offer was not accepted. He recommended that both proposals be refused, returned to Carthage and was there put to death. He is shown here resisting the blandishments of his family to remain in Rome - a model of traditional Roman virtue.
Related Paintings
Pendant: P55The Summons of Cincinnatus, Private Collection, England
Related Works by Other Artists
Benjamin West, The Departure of Regulus, 1769, Royal Collection Trust
Critical commentary
This painting was one of two 'historical compositions' painted in Rome for Ralph Howard (from 1785 Viscount Wicklow). Its pendant was P55 The Summons of Cincinnatus. Begun before 13 January 1752, they were finished before the 14 November the same year, the date of Wilson's account for them. The price was 20 sequins (about £10). The paintings represent a transitional stage in Wilson's development. Painted soon after his arrival in Rome they show him experimenting in a Poussinesque vein at a time when he was probably on the point of deciding to abandon portrait for landscape painting.
Undated Inventory of Wicklow Collection (before 1820) as by Wilson; Dr George Meade, Account 11 October 1820, for 'cleaning, lining and restoring'; Ford May 1951, p. 165, fig. 19; WGC, pp. 29, 31,71, 80, 84, 159, pl. 15b; Sutton & Clements 1968, vol. 2, p. 7, fig. 8; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 255 under cat. 165; Wilson and Europe 2014, pp. 56-58, fig. 48.
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
According to Brinsley Ford, this painting and its pendant P55 were both in less good condition in the dark areas than the other Wicklow pictures and in 1820, Dr Meade charged more for restoring them than for the others. Wilson's use of bitumen in the shadows is unusual.
Kate Lowry has noted: Oil on simple weave linen canvas. The painting has the same red ground as its companion piece P55 The Summons of Cincinnatus. It has been relined with a wax-resin adhesive and restretched onto a new pine stretcher possibly in the 1970s. The stretcher bears the remains of a paper label from Charles Roberson and the members have their measurements pencilled on them in inches. The stretcher consists of 5 members with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. The painting is in similar condition to P55 The Summons of Cincinnatus as regards surface dirt and discolouration of an old resin varnish coating. The extent of the surface dirt is visible where the painting has slipped down in the frame rebate. The previously-covered top margin which was protected from surface dirt is now much lighter in tone than the rest of the painting. This painting does not suffer from the severe drying cracks seen in P55. Nor are there any abrasions to the varnish or any flaking of original paint or ground. Under UV minor retouches are visible throughout beneath the varnish coating, but there are no damages to the original canvas visible. In general the condition of the support, paint and ground are good.