- Museum number
The Villa of Maecenas at Tivoli; interior of the ruin, over the vast arches of which grow bushes and drooping plants
Black chalk on prepared dull lilac paper, touched with white
- Production date
- 1752 (circa)
Height: 230 millimetres
Width: 203 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Tivoli, with its close ties to classical antiquity, was a favoured destination for all Grand Tourists. David Solkin argues that it also had a special draw for Richard Wilson because of its fame as a sketching-ground for Gaspard Dughet and other masters of 17th century landscape art (see 1881,0212.8 for remarks on Wilson’s influences.) Many drawings of Tivoli and its surroundings are known, dating from various points during Wilson’s Roman sojourn. However, as Solkin points out, the loose handling of the chalk, especially visible in this current drawing in the foliage around the arch, is stylistically very close to the sketches he had produced on his journey from Venice to Rome (see 1881,0212.36), and probably dates from his first year in Rome (Solkin, p. 161-2.) This is also undoubtedly an example of Wilson’s plein-air sketching practice.
The drawing depicts the building now thought to be the Sanctuary of Hercules the Victor; in the 18th Century it was believed to be the remains of the villa of the wealthy patron of the arts Maecenas, a close friend of Augustus. In the latter part of the 18th Century, they were vastly popular as a subject for both travelling and Italian artists, such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Giovanni Battista Piranesi (see Fragonard’s red chalk drawing in the Musée des beaux arts, Besançon or Part II of Piranesi’s ‘Vedute di Roma.) But, as Jonathan Yarker points out, this drawing pre-dates the widespread interest in the site (Yarker, in Postle & Simon, p. 228).
After his return to England, Wilson went on to produce a pair of paintings based on this drawing and a sketch of ‘The West Belvedere at Hadrian’s Villa, Tivoli’ (see 1922,0517.1). The painting (Tate Collection, N00303) reduces the size of the motif and includes a broad band of sky, some trees and a receding landscape to the left of the ruins, a broken classical statue and a portion of a fluted column leaning against the wall to the left. Many versions of this painting are known to exist. Michael-Angelo Rooker produced prints after these two paintings, which were published by in 1776 John Boydell in ‘Twelve Etchings of Views in Italy’ (see 1866,0407.208 and 1852,1009.765). Further information on the relationship between drawings and paintings in Wilson’s work can be found under 1881,0212.26.
'Richard Wilson Online' reference number: D130
M. Postle & R. Simon, Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2014.
D. Solkin, Richard Wilson, the Landscape of Reaction, Tate Gallery Publications, London, 1982.
The curator’s comments on the drawings of Richard Wilson were written by Olivia Ghosh, Anne Christopherson Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings, August 2017.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1982/3 Nov-Jun, Tate, Richard Wilson, no. 32
1983 Jan-Mar, NM of Wales, Richard Wilson, no. 32
1983 Apr-Jun, New Haven, YCBA, Richard Wilson, no. 32
2014 Mar-Jun, New Haven, YCBA, Richard Wilson
2014 July - Oct, Cardiff, NM of Wales, Richard Wilson
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number