Pantano Borghese

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Pantano Borghese
Pantano Borghese
Pantano Borghese
Photographed by Stephen White by Stephen White'. by Stephen White'.
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Pantano Borghese
Oil on canvas
Metric: 91.3 x 127.8 cm
Imperial: 36 x 50 5/16 in.
Private Collection, London
Wilson Online Reference
Christie's, 23 March 1850 (117), bt Colls; Mr Dunford, sold Christie's 28 April 1855 (120), bt Bishops; [...] David Jardine, High Lee, Woolton, Liverpool; sold Christie's, 16 March 1917 (139 - Lake Albano; an angler and bathers in the foreground), bt Agnews (£89.5.0.) on behalf of his nephew, Lawrence MacLaren, Liverpool (d. 1928); [...] R.J. Spiller, Ltd, London; 1968, Private Collection, Chapman, Alabama, USA.; J. Raymond Samuel Ltd, The Rink, Prytania Street, New Orleans, La., 70130, USA; bt 30 May 1985 by Mr and Mrs C. Edward Hansell, c/o Hansell and Post, 33rd Floor, 1st Atlanta Tower, Atlanta, Georgia, 30383-3101, USA; [...] 2014, Private Collection, London
Signed in black paint lower right corner: 'RW' ['R' not reversed]
Techniques and materials
Cleaning in 2015 revealed a pentiment, perhaps two figures, one with a rod or staff, partly silhouetted against the water to the left of the fisherman
Verso inscriptions
Chalk inscriptions on stretcher:
[1] Right-hand vertical cross-member: Bolton & Fairhead'
[2] Left-hand vertical cross-member: 'MacGowan'
Labels on reverse of stretcher:
[1] Commercial label; handwritten in ink: 'View of : - Pantano-Borghese (about 20 miles from Rome)'
[2] Stencil on upper member: '594 CM'
Labels on reverse of frame:
[1] Lower right: ART - 218 | EENN
[2] Centre lower edge: 15 May 1989
[3]. Printed luggage label: January 16-17 2015 | 768 | Brunk Auctions | Asheville, NC
The estate of Pantano Borghese was purchased in 1613 by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. It lies between the Via Casilina and Prenestina, about 20 km from the centre of Rome. There are archaeological remains of a pre-Roman city including the Temple of Juno and the aqueduct of Alexandria, built in the first half of the 3rd century AD by Alexander Severus.
Critical commentary
This picture, which reappeared on the art market in 2014, is the only known example of the subject in Wilson's oeuvre. It follows his well-established compositional formula of trees, lake, buildings and mountains. There is currently minimal documentation to confirm the location of the scene. Dating is uncertain but it can be argued that the style reflects enough of Wilson's early landscape manner overlaid with ideas he had picked up in Venice and Rome to put it in his early Roman period, probably before the great Dartmouth commission of 1754.
Frame dimensions: 109.5 x 145.8 cm. Kate Lowry has noted: Viewed in unglazed, unbacked frame off the wall. Now reframed but former gilt frame probably not contemporary with the painting though of period pattern. Painting held loosely in frame rebate by long nails. The frame rebate has been reinforced or altered by the insertion of additional timbers along the top and proper left hand rebates. Oil on simple weave canvas. Canvas is slightly open weave. Relined onto a machine-woven simple weave linen canvas with animal glue adhesive. Probably relined in late 19th or early 20th century. Stretcher, not original, consists of nine members and has square mortice joints with provision for keying out. Stretcher keyed out all round. One key missing lower left. Original turnover edges removed at time of lining and painting now attached to liner's stretcher with white metal tacks through lining turnovers. These turnovers are brittle and have given way at top right and lower left causing the support to lose tension, so there are small bulges in the canvas in these areas. The lining process has flattened the painting somewhat and left vertical ridges in the sky area where the canvas weave has been pushed forward. A layer of white paint which underlies all of the foreground but not the sky area has formed small grainy particles which are also more prominent now, due to the lining treatment. These particles have also been found in some of Wilson's early paintings such as P12A Caernarvon Castle (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven) and P17 Flora MacDonald (Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh) and P24 and P24A Dr Francis Ayscough with the Prince of Wales and Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (Yale Center for British Art & National Portrait Gallery, London). The sky and foliage of the left hand trees are not underpainted white in this way, but painted directly onto the pinkish-red ground layer. The ground colour is typical of Wilson's Italian period paintings, his later works being more commonly painted on a grey, off-white or pale pink ground. This may indicate an earlier date than previously suggested. Generally speaking the paint handling and the figures are very like Wilson's style. The sky is painted down to the distant hills at the horizon on the left which is typical of Wilson. No specific reserve has been left for the tree foliage painted against the sky; such a reserve often features in Wilson's later works. The condition of the paint is generally good. The foliage of the trees is fairly wispy and may have been subject to overcleaning around the margins, where seen against the sky. Some slight crizzling of foliage paint in left hand trees suggests the paint may have been overheated in lining. Under UV very minor retouches are visible throughout, but there are no major damages. There are two small filled/retouched losses in the lower sky and the landscape at lower right. Some of the foreground darks have only been partially cleaned and residues of old varnish are visible here. The warm ground tone ghosting through the sky is responsible for a reduction in brightness here.
Subsequently conserved and reframed, 2015. Kate Lowry has noted: Examined again on 24 February 2016 after cleaning and restoration. Now that the darks are more easily readable the monogram signature is clearer. The brush strokes of the black lettering are much wider than would be normal for Wilson and this, coupled with the fact that the 'R' is not reversed, suggests that it may be a later addition. A deep blue green colour is now visible in the foliage at the top of the tree at upper left which is uncharacteristic for Wilson and may well be overpaint. A similar colour paint is present in the reflections of the small trees in the water at centre left and this is obviously old overpaint not removed in the recent cleaning. The cleaning has revealed a pentiment of two heads, possibly of a man and a woman, to the left of the seated fisherman. These are of a much larger scale than the figures in the present composition and appear to have belonged to a quite different underlying composition.
The whole feeling of this work is of a collection of motifs of figures, buildings, rocks, waterfall and trees brought together in a decorative way.