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Richard Wilson, R.A. (Penegoes, now Powys 1713/4-1782 Colomendy, now Clwyd)
Property of an Estate
Richard Wilson, R.A. (Penegoes, now Powys 1713/4-1782 Colomendy, now Clwyd)

Torre delle Grotte, near Naples

Details
Richard Wilson, R.A. (Penegoes, now Powys 1713/4-1782 Colomendy, now Clwyd)
Torre delle Grotte, near Naples
oil on canvas
20 x 26¼ in. (50.8 x 66.6 cm.)
Provenance
with Shepherd Bros., from whom acquired in June 1913 by
T.W. Bacon (1863-1950), thence by descent to A.W. Bacon.
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 15 June 2000, lot 80 (£35,000).
Literature
A. Bury, Richard Wilson: The Grand Classic, Leigh-on-Sea, 1947, p. 69.
W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson, London, 1953, p. 199, under 'plate 78a, b, version 1', as '22¼ x 28¾ in.'
Exhibited
Birmingham, Birmingham City Art Gallery, on loan by 1950 and until 1953-1954.
Colchester, The Minories, Essex & Suffolk Houses, 2-21 March 1964.
Birmingham, Birmingham City Art Gallery, on loan 1970-1999.
Sale Room Notice
Please note that the painting is signed 'R.W.' (lower right, on the rock).

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Lot Essay

The Welsh-born artist Richard Wilson initially trained as a portraitist and took to painting landscapes before setting off for Italy in 1750. His seven-year sojourn there started in Venice and lead ultimately to Rome and Naples, where he became familiar with the work of Poussin, Claude, Rosa and Jan Frans van Bloemen. Wilson's connections in Italy and his aptitude for the Classics made him an ideal tutor to the Grand Tourists, who would become his most important patrons.

The Torre delle Grotte is probably situated on the coast of Fusaro, south of Salerno. This remarkable site is distinguished by its outcrop of rock with natural caves topped by a ruined fort. The present painting, lacking in any overt reference to antiquity, stands apart in Wilson's oeuvre. The focus here is on the romantic, picturesque qualities of the landscape, as studied from life en plein air, much like his superb Tivoli, the Temple of Maecenas (Constable, pl. 119a). A drawing of this view contained in a sketchbook from 1752, now at the Victoria and Albert Museum (op cit., pl. 78b), provides the date for this work.

Wilson painted this view on two other occasions: a signed canvas in the Mrs. L'Estrange Malone collection, Scampston, York (17 x 27½ in.), considered by Waterhouse and Constable to be the finest variant; and another unsigned picture in the collection of Sir John Molesworth-St. Aubyn, Bt., Pencarrow (21 x 29 in.).

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