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Photograph courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland
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Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Tivoli, the Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas (View of Tivoli with Rome in the Distance)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 49.3 x 64 cm
Imperial: 19 3/8 x 25 3/16 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
The view is from the area of the belvedere at Tivoli on the Via delle Cascatelle, looking south west beyond the Cascatelle Grandi and the so-called Villa of Maecenas, into the Roman Campagna. The dome of St Peter's, 18 miles away, can just be made out on the horizon. The time is evening and the artist working on a canvas in the foreground has completed the blue areas of the sky. He has what seems to be a white brush in his hand and a palette is partly concealed behind his right sleeve.
London, Cardiff and New Haven, 1982-83 (65); Washington D.C. 1996 (1); Tercentenary 2014 (57)
Painted for Joseph Henry of Straffan, Co. Kildare, Ireland; thence by descent; sold by the Trustees of a Charitable Foundation, Fosters, London, 25 May 1870 (113); bt by Barbara, Countess of Milltown, widow of the 6th Earl of Milltown; given by her to the National Gallery of Ireland, 1902
Unsigned; inscribed verso (see 'Verso Inscriptions')
Techniques and materials
In contrast to the pendant P45, the background landscape details are here additive rather than scratched though to the underpaint. A pink-brown ground shows through the buildings on the ridge, upper left. There is a pentiment (erased building) to the immediate left of the campanile and in the profile of the cliff face below it.
Verso inscriptions
[1] In unknown hand in ink: JOSEPH HENRY | TIVOLI 2 | R.Wilson, PINXT | 1752 | No.1
Tivoli had a special significance for British Grand Tourists. They had learned of it as Tibur, ancient capital of the Sabines, whose defeat had marked a brilliant episode in the early history of Rome. Its later reputation was as a cultural centre, associated pre-eminently with the figure of Gaius Cilnius Maecenas (70-8 BC), the most renowned patron of Virgil, Horace and other Roman literary stars. These ancient poets had lavished fulsome praise upon the scenery around the town and it had been widely depicted by the leading Roman landscape painters of the 17th century. The watercolourist, Jonathan Skelton, writing in 1758 remarked: 'This antient city of Tivole I planly see has been ye only school where our two most celebrated Landscape Painters Claude and Gaspar studied. They have both taken their Manners of Painting from hence...'. Wilson's pupil, Thomas Jones, commented in 1777: 'Gasper Poussin seems to have form'd his Style from this country'.
Related Drawings
D244 The Falls at Tivoli, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Related Prints
E75 Charles Turner after Wilson,Maecenas' Villa, The British Museum and other impressions
E76 Charles Turner after Wilson, View of Maecenas' Villa, Tivoli, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Related Paintings
Pendant: P45 The Temple of the Sibyl and the Campagna, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin
Related Works by Other Artists
[1] Thomas Jones A Shepherd and Shepherdess grazing their Herd before the Cascatelle at Tivoli , 38.9 x 53 cm, Bonham's London, 8 December 2010 (58); Private Collection, Wales
[2] William Hodges, The Cascatelle at Tivoli, c. 1775-79, John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London
[3] John Plimmer, Tivoli, the Cascatelle Grandi and the Villa of Maecenas, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Swansea
[4] Pier Leone Ghezzi, Caricature of Joseph Henry, 1750, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Critical commentary
One of two Tivoli scenes painted for Joseph Henry. They are Wilson's earliest known paintings of actual Italian scenery. His portrayals of Tivoli tend to be Gaspardesque and/or influenced by the Flemish painter working in Italy, Jan Frans Bloemen, called Orizzonte (1662-1749). This painting differs from P44A in the omission of the near foreground, as well as of most of the hill to the right and the figure standing by the artist. This painting has been made more heroic than P44B, with a more vertical composition, exaggerating the vertiginous aspect of the valley and hilltop architecture. Also, the dome of St Peter's is shown in the distance but is not visible in P44B. The orientation towards the southwest suggests that the time of day is intended as evening, which would coincide with the painted blue sky on the artist's canvas, though not with the implication of 'No. 1' inscribed on the verso.
Jones 1803, p. 67; WGC, p.225, pl.117a (version 1); B. Ford ed.,'The Letters of Jonathan Skelton written from Rome and Tivoli in 1758', The Walpole Society vol.36, 1956-58, pp.42-43). M. Wynne, 'The Milltowns as Patrons', Apollo, vol. 99, Feb. 1974, p. 110; Conisbee 1976 [unpaginated]; Conisbee 1979, p. 425; Potterton 1981, p. 180; Solkin 1982, pp. 181-83; Clark & Bowron 1985, p. 250, cat. 147; Conisbee 1996, pp. 109-11; Wilson and Europe 2014, p. 247; A. Callen, The Work of Art, London 2015, pp. 64 & 280, n. 44
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
More Information
Philip Conisbee has noted, 'It was not Wilson's usual practice to paint out-of-doors, but probably Vernet encouraged him to do so. The presence of an artist painting the view, with his portable easel and folding stool, implies an endorsement of the practice. The middle and far distances likely were painted, at least in part, in front of the motif.'
Cleaned in 1996. Under UV small retouchings are visible in the sky. Original canvas was fine weave linen, now glue-relined and stretched onto a seven-member pine stretcher with square mortice joints and provision for keying out. The lining was carried out sometime before the painting entered the gallery in 1902. Vection cracks in the paint film suggest the original four-member stretcher had bars 40mm wide. Original ground is a dark red/brown colour. This is completely covered by the sky paint, but left exposed in the landscape in the middle and foreground to form the darkest tones. Here the sky is quite pink at the right, possibly indicating an evening scene looking west across toward Rome. The distant city is rendered with impasto, in contrast to the indentations scored with the brush handle in the distant landscape of P45 The Temple of the Sibyl and the Campagna, National Gallery of Ireland. The canvas on the easel has a grey preparation and the blue paint has already been applied to the upper part of the canvas to indicate the sky. Under UV light a pentiment is visible to the left of the upper tower, indicating a building alongside the tower, which now only remains visible in normal light as a highlight. Another pentiment is also visible under UV at the right edge of the bluff.