The Garden of the Villa Madama

The Garden of the Villa Madama
The Garden of the Villa Madama
The Garden of the Villa Madama
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Garden of the Villa Madama
Oil on canvas
Metric: 63.5 x 76.5 cm
Imperial: 25 x 30 1/8 in.
Accession Number
NMW A 5193
Wilson Online Reference
In a shady glade, a lane runs across the foreground and on the left a man and a woman greet a friar. A rustic building is at the centre, overhung by trees, while to the right on a gentle slope, a line of trees is silhouetted against the sunset sky.
Brighton 1920 (9 - The Hermitage)
Benjamin Booth; the Revd R.S. Booth; Marianne Booth, Lady Ford; by descent to Captain Richard Ford; his sale Christie's 14 June 1929 (12 - The Hermitage); bt Agnew (440 guineas); Frederick John Nettlefold, Chelwood Vachery, Nutley, Sussex; presented by F.J. Nettlefold, 1946
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
The double layer of white priming and the range of pigments are typical of Wilson's work, though the coarse canvas weave is a little unusual.
The Villa Madama was designed by Raphael for Cardinal Giuliano dei Medici (later Pope Clement VII) and took its name from having been occupied by Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Charles V, and Duchess of Parma, in the late 16th century. The location shown was probably called 'Il Teatro' as the tragicomedy Il Pastor Fido by G.B. Guarini was performed there in about 1590. From this the libretto of Handel's eponymous opera was derived (1712, revived 1734).
Related Prints
E14 William Byrne after Wilson A View in the Villa Madama, near Rome, called Il Teatro, 1765, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven & other impressions
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Critical commentary
Although technical analysis has provided no evidence to suggest that this is anything other than a work by Wilson himself the quality of the paintwork as discernible through the varnish and the lack of descriptive detail compared with other versions locate the painting as at best of replica status. However, Booth lists two pictures, one a sketch and one 'Finishd' (Booth Notes Doc. 9, p. 2, nos 42 & 43). The present work is likely to be the former; the other version is untraced. The composition was clearly one of Wilson's 'good breeders' as at least five authentic versions are known.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
Booth Notes Doc. 5, p. 2; Booth Notes Doc. 8, p. 1; Booth Notes Doc. 9 (42); Fletcher 1908, pp. 96, 192; Grundy & Roe, vol. 4, pp. 154-55 - The Hermitage, repr. col.; WGC, p. 203
There is no evidence from X-ray or infra-red imagery. However, a very thick layer of discoloured resin varnish currently obscures the paint surface. Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas is loose, coarse, uneven weave, approx. 10 x 10 threads per sq. cm. The texture of the original canvas is fairly dominant throughout the painting especially through the mid-tones of the background. Original canvas turnovers have been removed at the time of lining. Lined onto a fine, close weave linen with glue-paste adhesive. Two old tears pre-date the lining. Pine stretcher dates from lining. Oil ground consists of two layers of white. Some red/brown underpaint in the foliage is visible through drying crackle. Fine mature crackle throughout. Some fine drying crackle in the foliage. The central area has been partially cleaned in the past and the discoloured varnish layer is considerably thicker around the edges of the painting and in the dark tones.