The Destruction of the Children of Niobe

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The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
The National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
The Destruction of the Children of Niobe
1752 or 1758
Oil on canvas
Metric: 75.2 x 98.3 cm
Imperial: 29 5/8 x 38 11/16 in.
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
In a clearing at the edge of a dark wood a semi-draped female figure lies dead on her back. Further to the left two female figures kneel in supplication, one with outstretched arms, the other with head bowed to the ground. Behind them over a bridge a wooden building burns at the base of a cliff and beyond are tempestuous seas and a distant town. In the background a mountain struck by lightning is silhouetted against a stormy sky. Trees shattered by lightning frame the scene and in the woodland to the right a sculpture of a horse devoured by a lion is visible.
David 1st Baron Davies (1880-1944), Llandinam, Montgomeryshire; acquired by the National Library of Wales from his executors
Signed lower right on the plinth of the sculpture: RW [the R reversed]
Inscribed or possibly dated above the signature: 1752 [? or1758?]
[1] Upper horizontal stretcher bar, left end on small blue-edged label, hand-written in black ink: a/69 [and] lower right corner, diagonally in blue crayon: 1345 [?]
[2] Central vertical stretcher bar, owner's label with stamp: LORD DAVIES | LLANDINAM [and handwritten below:] Main Library [and handwritten vertically, left:] TN/22
[3] Left vertical stretcher bar, lower end, printed: Llandinam | 37
Related Drawings
D325 The Children of Niobe, The British Museum
D355 Recumbent Male Nude, National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Related Prints
E11 William Woollett after Wilson, Niobe, 1761, National Museum Wales, Cardiff and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
Related Works by Other Artists
[1] Gaspard Dughet, The Cascade, late 1660s, Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
[2] William Hodges (1744-1797) after Wilson, Niobe, graphite, brown and white chalk, 370 x 425 mm, ex-Paul Sandby collection, Christie's 12 December 1981 (40i). Location unknown.
[3] Jacques-Louis David, Apollo and Diana attacking the Children of Niobe, 1772, Dallas Museum of Art, USA
Critical commentary
W.G. Constable noted that the design and the tree to the right are close to those in P90, the ex-Cumberland picture (Yale Center for British Art). Major differences are the omission of Niobe and the figures round her, and of Artemis and Apollo in the sky, for whom a streak of lightning is substituted; also the castle on the left. More significant are surely the flaming building and the inclusion on the right of the famous Antique sculpture group, Lion attacking a Horse, which Wilson would have seen in the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. The two figures at the left centre, the recumbent woman and the lower part of the tree all appear in the drawing D325 The Children of Niobe (British Museum). On grounds of style, Constable thought that this was perhaps the first version and Solkin agrees. If the earlier date of 1752 is genuine that is confirmed. The fine weave canvas does not support an Italian genesis, posing the question whether it could have been brought from England. The composition is in reverse orientation to those of its nearest comparators, P90 and P90A.
Previous Cat/Ref Nos
WGC, p. 161, pl. 19b (version 4); Sutton & Clements 1968, vol. 2, p. 21, fig. 23; Solkin 1982, p. 199
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
In a heavy late Victorian classical frame, glazed. Dimensions framed: 105 x 135 cm. Kate Lowry has noted: Original canvas is fine simple weave linen, later glued onto a similar weight canvas. The original turnovers were removed at the time of lining. The stretcher dates from the lining. The ground is deep red, the same colour as that of P90 and P90A. The canvas is, however, a much finer weave than those. Although the figures of Niobe and Apollo are absent from this version there are possible pentimenti in the areas where they would normally be found, at lower centre and upper right. Under UV light a small retouched fill is visible centre right to the right of the tree and there is some more general retouching at upper right. No retouching is evident in the signature or date. The painting has been selectively cleaned in the sky and at the edges of the main tree foliage.
Updated by Compiler
2021-09-16 00:00:00