- Museum number
"La Bella Quercia"; the remains of a large fallen oak near Albano, with two figures inside a trunk to the left, and a man on a donkey under another trunk to the right
Pen and ink over graphite on blue paper
- Production date
Height: 412 millimetres
Width: 512 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The following information is taken from Joe Rock, 'Hugh William Williams ('Grecian Williams') 1773-1829', Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, n.s., 5 (2002), 83-91 and 'The Life and Work of Hugh William Williams [1773-1829], set within a Scottish context. With a catalogue of works in public collections and a catalogue of all known prints by and after the artist.(unpublished PhD, University of Edinburgh, 1997). This information is also available on Joe Rock's website: http://sites.google.com/site/hughwilliamwilliams.
Hugh Williams undertook a grand tour of the continent beginning in June 1816 and ending in the autumn of 1818. The route taken was not much different to that taken by others who visited Greece, with the possible exception of a fascination with the site of the Battle of Waterloo where so many Highlanders had perished. The journey began in London on the 6 July 1816 with a passage to Ostend. From there the route carried on through the Low Countries with a lingering look at the site of Waterloo, only a year after the battle. In Switzerland some of the journey was undertaken on foot, in the company of assorted members of the Scottish aristocracy. With a base in Leghorn, well endowed with Scottish merchants, side trips were arranged to the island of Elba and to Florence. By November 1816 Williams was in Rome, where he passed the winter before setting off for Greece in February, 1817. He was in Athens by May 1817, remaining for less than a month before setting off for Naples, sailing via Sicily and Malta. Once again Williams wintered in Rome from December 1817 until March 1818 when he began the journey home. He was back in the Low Countries by September and home in Edinburgh, probably by October 1818.
2014,7022.1-10 and 2016,7064.1-5 comes from an album of around 120 drawings, known as the 'De La Hanty' album, exhibited and largely dispersed in 1988. This drawing was made on the return journey from Greece to England. Williams spent December 1817 to March 1818 in Rome. On his return he published his thoughts and experiences as 'Travels in Italy, Greece and the Ionian Islands' (1820). From 1818 onwards he spent a decade immersed in the production of topographical views of Greece for exhibition. The demand for these views prevented any further development of the promising change of style in the artist's work, which had begun to emerge before his continental journey. Indeed, such was the demand that from 1823 he arranged the publication of etchings after his views, as 'Select Views in Greece' (1823-1829), closely supervising the production of the plates by leading Scottish engravers. Against the background of the Greek struggle for independence from the Turks, his watercolours and prints caught the public imagination and for this reason they mark the high point of his financial success.
This collection of works donated to the BM record Williams' return journey in drawings typically sketched first in pencil with a more finished pen and ink drawing on top. Amongst the numerous drawings from these travels, which amount to in excess of one hundred, the majority were of Italy, especially subjects in Rome, while none are of views of Greece.
Several further works from the album were presented to the Museum in 2016 (2016,7064.1-5) and two further views, of the Temple of Serapis and of Monte Giove, were offered on Ebay in July 2019.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- These drawings came from an album of around 120 drawings, known as the De La Hanty album because it contained the bookplate of Baron Dr. De la Hanty. This is presumably Baron Dr. Cornelius Ver Heydon de Lancy [1889-1984] who married Josephine De la Hanty just prior to World War II. The album was probably sold in his sale on 17 June 1987, where it may have been purchased by Stephen Somerville but we have not been able to confirm this. It was then exhibited by Somerville in 1988 and largely broken up.
This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number