Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at…

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Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at…
Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at…
Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at…
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
title=Credit line
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Cicero with his Friend Atticus and Brother Quintus at his Villa at Arpinum
c.1771-75 (undated)
Oil on canvas
Metric: 121.8 x 174.5 cm (sight size: 125 x 173 cm)
Imperial: 47 15/16 x 68 5/8 in. (sight size: 49 3/16 x 68 1/4 in.)
Accession Number
Wilson Online Reference
The Roman orator, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) is shown conversing with his friend Quintus and his brother Atticus at Arpinum. As described in his De Legibus (Concerning the Laws), a treatise on natural justice and the nature of the law, Cicero and his friends stand in a grove near an old oak tree, which Atticus recognises from a poem by Cicero. The discussion turns to a secluded island in the distance, where the villa of Cicero's birth is visible, and where he goes for 'undisturbed meditation, or uninterrupted reading or writing'. This conversation takes place on an island in the middle of the River Fibrenus on Cicero's native estate. The friends remark on how the serenity of the landscape inspires them with wisdom and creativity. From the dominion of nature, Cicero extrapolates his ideals for social order in Rome, while it is only through his inspired poetry and philosophies that Atticus perceives the perfection of nature itself. In the foreground two rivers conjoin and flow off left - one flowing from right to the left and the other, streaming from the left, meeting it at the rocks in the centre.
RA 1770 (201 - a version); BI 1814 (161/165); London, Suffolk Street, London, 1833 (145); BI 1848 (173); Manchester 1857 (Modern Masters, 36 - Cicero's Villa); London, Leggatt 1947 (44 A View in Wynnstay Park); Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 1989, Hidden Treasures: South Australia's European Old Master Paintings, Restorations and Re-attributions and South Australia's European Old Master Drawings; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 1991, Selected Works from the Collection; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 2003, The Morgan Thomas Bequest Centenary Exhibition; Hobart, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, Canberra, National Gallery of Australia, Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, 2003-4, John Glover and the Colonial Picturesque; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 11 March - 13 June 2005, Island to Empire: 300 Years of British Art 1550-1850: Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings, Sculptures from the Collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, Making Nature: Masters of European Landscape Art, 26 June - 6 September 2009
Commissioned by Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, probably after seeing the first, smaller version (P162) in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1770; thence by descent; Sotheby's 5 February 1947 (48 A Welsh Landscape); with Leggatt, London; with Agnew; bt by the Art Gallery of South Australia on the recommendation of Harold Wright through the Morgan Thomas Bequest Fund, 1948
Unsigned; no inscription
Techniques and materials
Contains many fine autograph details, such as the painting of the urns on the balustrade of the distant villa. Some pink has been used in the broken tree centre foreground and the upraised hand of the right figure. There is lovely varied impasto in the lighting of the clouds. Light brown underpainting is showing through in places. The details of the hill in the middle ground are not fine but there is visible bravura in horizontal brush-strokes there.
Detached labels on foam backboard:
[1] Upper left, printed label: James Bourlet and Sons Ltd | Fine Art Packers, Frame Makers | D8535 | 17 & 18 Nassau Street, | Mortimer Street W
[2] Upper left, old label in black ink: 1659 [?] | 4 [?]
[3] Upper left, old label in black ink: 6627
[4] Upper left, detached round serrated label in black ink: 6415
[5] Upper centre AGSA modern printed label with accession number: 0.1371
[6] Upper centre, older typed AGSA label with same information as above plus number in pencil: CN 4538
The Volscian hill town of Arpinum lies in the province of Frosinone, 70 miles south-east of Rome. Founded by the 7th century BC., it was captured by the Romans in 305 BC. Marcus Tullius Cicero was born on 3 January 106 BC at the family home just outside Arpinum. Cicero's family belonged to the local nobility and had connections with leading political figures in Rome. His provincial origin would define and haunt Cicero's life and career and differentiate him from, for example, his life-long friend and confidant, Titus Pomponius Atticus, who was a Roman born and bred. This is clear from the dialogue, De Legibus, which he composed in the late 50s and which contains the following exchange:
Cicero: Now, when it is possible for me to get away for more days, especially at this time of year, I make for the beauty and the healthy climate of this place, though it is seldom possible. But there is in fact another reason that gives me pleasure, which does not apply to you, Titus.
Atticus: And what is that?
Cicero: This is, to tell the truth, my own and my brother's real fatherland. Here are the most ancient roots from which we are descended; here are our family shrines, here our family, here the many traces of our ancestors.
(Cicero, De Legibus, 2.3-5)
Related Drawings
D178 Arpinum, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
D371 Study for 'Cicero and his Friends', Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Related Prints
E45 William Woollett after Wilson, Cicero at his Villa, The British Museum and other impressions
See 'Links' tab
Related Works by Other Artists
[1] Claude Lorrain St George and the Dragon, 1643, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, Connecticut
[2] John Robert Cozens, Cicero's Villa, watercolour, 1779, Private Collection, England
[3] Jacob More (1740-1793), An Ideal Classical Landscape with Cicero and Friends, 1780, Ickworth, National Trust
Critical commentary
Although the general location of Cicero's villa at Arpino, southeast of Rome (one of at least nine properties he owned) was widely known in the 18th century, Wilson's landscape is remarkably unspecific and as suggested by David Solkin (1978), was quite possibly based on his familiar Welsh scenery. However, the building itself bears some resemblance to one at another site associated with Cicero - the Villa Rufinella (now the Grand Hotel Villa Tuscolana) at Frascati, near the site of the ancient Tusculum. Timothy Wilcox has plausibly argued that during his years in Italy Wilson saw the Villa Rufinella, which was being rebuilt for the Jesuits by the architect Luigi Vanvitelli from 1740. There is indeed a similarity in the nine bay façade, though the chronology of its remodelling and thus the layout that Wilson might have known, is unclear. Also, the Villa Rufinella stands on a north-facing slope, rather than in a valley, as is the case with the villa in this painting and at Arpinum.
As noted by W.G. Constable (p. 94) the design is similar to that of P166 View near Wynnstay, Yale Center for British Art, with much the same arrangement of light and shade and similar treatment of the trees and of the distance. Wilson's incorporation of the mountainous scenery of North Wales was particularly appropriate in this case in view of the patron, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, the prominent Welsh landowner.
Booth Notes Doc. 4; Booth Notes Doc 5, p. 1; National Gallery of South Australia Bulletin, July 1948; WGC, pp. 44, 73, 94, 168, pl. 27b; Solkin 1978, pp. 404-13, n.26; Chubb 1981, pp. 417, 418, fig. 34; Solkin 1982, pp. 131-33, 235-36; Ron Radford, Hidden Treasures, exh. cat., Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 1989, pp. 39, 74; Tomory & Gaston 1989, p. 51, no. 138; Ron Radford et al., Selected Works, Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia, 1991, p. 19; Kathleen Nicholson, Turner's Classical Landscapes: Myth and Meaning, New Jersey, 1990, p. 14; David Hansen, John Glover, Hobart/Sydney, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery and Art Exhibitions Australia, 2004, pp. 39, 74; Ron Radford, Island to Empire, 300 Years of British Art 1550-1850, exh. cat., Adelaide 2005, pp. 140-43; Jane Messenger, exh. cat., Making Nature: Masters of European Landscape, Adelaide 2009, pp. 122-3, 251
Link to WG Constable Archive Record
Broad weave canvas, relined. Conserved 1987 by Artlab Australia, Adelaide. In 2005, the condition was reported as good/fair; some of the dark paint had sunk and some paint has been flattened in the relining. There is infilling in the sky on the upper left side. Numerous drying cracks are apparent especially in the darks in the undergrowth at the left. The frame is not original but a 1980s enlargement of an 18th century frame contemporary with the painting.
Updated by Compiler
2016-08-26 00:00:00