Exhibition catalogue text

Catalogue entry from British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection

THOMAS JONES
1742-1803

44 Ariccia, Buildings on the Edge of the Town 1777

Watercolour over pencil with gum arabic on laid paper 28.3 x 42.8 (11 1/8 x 16 7/8)
Inscribed at top in pencil '5' and 'Larici 22d May 1777 TJ' and 'E'; verso an unfinished sketch inscribed 'continuation of the view marked "D", and showing the relative positions of 'Larici', 'Gardens of Capuchin Convt at Albano', 's', and the 'Benedictine Convent of the Madona of the Galoro | near Larici'

T08141

Jones is remembered today not only for his striking oil sketches but also for the important memoirs he wrote towards the end of his life. Published in full in 1951, when they were edited and introduced by Paul Opp?, the memoirs are a remarkably rich source of information about the lives of English artists (especially those who travelled to Italy) in the second half of the eighteenth century. The Italian portion of the memoirs is particularly detailed and reliable, since - as Opp? indicates - at this point Jones was clearly following (and sometimes actually incorporating) his diary.

Jones records in his Memoirs that between 29 April and 24 May 1777 he was staying in the town of Genzano south-east of Rome in the Alban hills, and making regular excursions in the neighbourhood of Nemi and Albano. Even before his arrival in Italy in 1776 he had become, in his own words, 'insensibly ... familiarised' with this region and with other parts of the country through the copies he had made after his 'Old Master', Richard Wilson - to the extent, indeed, that when he did finally touch Italian soil 'every scene seemed anticipated in some dream - It appeared Magick Land' (Memoirs, December 1776, p.55). This view is dated 22 May 1777, and Jones's memoir for that day confirms that he went to 'Larici' (Arricia) and to the small nearby village of 'Galoro' (Galloro) with the architect Thomas Hardwick and 'Vincenzo', returning to Genzano 'by the Appian Way to dinner by 4' (Memoirs, p.60).

Most representations of Ariccia at this period show the famous view looking up the escarpment to Bernini's Church of Santa Maria dell'Assunzione and the Palazzo Chigi (see no.13). While still depicting the town from below, Jones shows it from the opposite side, from the south-east, a conclusion which can only be arrived at by comparing two other (more distant) views by him of Ariccia similarly seen from this direction (London, Phillips, 15 April 1985, and Hawcroft 1988, no.72; the latter is marked 'D', like the verso of this drawing, and forms a continuous panorama with it). However, so rare is this viewpoint that, although inscribed 'Larici', this watercolour has until now been misidentified as a convent at Albano (an error compounded by the misreading of the date as 11 May 1777). Jones appears to have been fascinated by the roof-lines of the variously proportioned buildings, and the patterning of window openings in the fa?ades below (Hawcroft 1983, no.7). A few years later he was to be similarly attracted to the urban roofscape of Naples (see fig.7).

Anne Lyles

Published in:
Anne Lyles and Robin Hamlyn, and others, British Watercolours from the Oppé Collection with a Selection of Drawings and Oil Sketches, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, p.124 no.44, reproduced in colour p.125