Catalogue entry

Richard Wilson 1713/14–1782

T01706 Tivoli; Temply of the Sibyl and the Campagna circa 1765-70

Not inscribed.
Canvas, painted surface, 39½ x 49½ (100.4x 125.7).
Accepted by the Commissioners of Inland Revenue from the Callingwood family in part-satisfaction of Estate Duty. Transferred to the Tate Gallery 1973.
Coll: The painting could be any of the following: (1) ‘A View from Tivoli towards Rome’, exh. R.A., 1777 (378); (2) ‘The Campagna, Rome’, exh. B.I. 1848 (167) lent by Rev. Allen Cooper, almost certainly the same as ‘Tivoli and the Campagna’ exh. B.I. 1863 (155) lent by Mrs Allen Cooper; (3) ‘Tivoli, looking over the Campagna’, anon sale (Rev. H. C. Powles), Christie’s 3 June 1876 (41) bought in; (4) ‘A View of Tivoli with Two figures and a dog in the foreground’, James Morris sale, Christie’s 3 March 1883 (38) bought Lesser; (5) ‘Falls of Tivoli: Wooded foreground in which are seen a man, a woman and dog; high hill, crowned with buildings, on the left, distant view of Rome, seen across the Campagna’, 39 x 49, exh. R.A. 1884 (202) lent J. D. Linton. The subsequent history of what seems to be definitely this picture is as follows: Angerstein collection (according to Widener catalogue, but not traced); bought by P. A. B. Widener from Wallis & Cox 1893, traded in May 1908 to Agnew, who sold it to R.A. Tatton May 1911; sold anonymously at Christie’s 20 November 1936 (36) bought Agnew; sold to William Collingwood; Sir Edward Collingwood.
Exh: ? R.A. 1777 (378); ? B.I. 1848 (167) and 1863 (155); ?R.A. 1884 (202); Agnew May–June 1937(11).
Lit: Catalogue of Paintings in the Widener Collection, Lynnewood Hall, Philadelphia, 11, 1900, No. 158, repr. with note describing it as formerly in the Angerstein collection; Catalogue of Pictures at Cuerden Hall, Preston, the Property of Reginald A. Tatton 1913, p.38, No.62; W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson, 1953, p.222, p.115a; D. Sutton and A. Clements, An Italian Sketchbook by Richard Wilson R.A. 1968, p.31 (for Boston version).
Repr: Connoisseur, XCIX, June 1937, p.352.

The painting shows the gorge of the Anio with the Temple of the Sibyl on the cliff on the left. Beyond is the Roman Campagna with the dome of St Peter’s visible in the distance.

The composition was evidently one of Wilson’s ‘good breeders’ and a large number of versions is listed by Constable. The subject is based on on-the-spot sketches made during the artist’s stay in Italy 1750–c.1757 (cf. drawing in Victoria & Albert Museum, Dyce 656, repr. Constable, 1953, pl.116a) and the earliest oil version is probably the ‘View of Tivoli’ bought by Joseph Henry of Straffan in Rome, 1752, now in the National Gallery of Ireland (cat.747; repr. in Apollo, XCIX, February 1974, p.111). A very large upright version (90 x 71 in., Constable, 1953, repr.115b) is in the Weld collection at Lulworth Manor, Dorset, and was painted for Ince Blundell Hall sometime between 1763–67. A version with additional figures in the mid-distance was engraved by W. Byrne in reverse as No.3 in a series published by Boydell in 1765. The engraving appears to be of the painting now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (25¿ x 33¿ in., repr. in Sutton & Clements, 1968, p.31, giving wrong size), which is probably not unconnected with the fact that most versions and copies also follow the Philadelphia version closely. Two drawings based on this composition and attributed to Wilson’s pupils Johnson Carr and William Hodges were, respectively, in the collections of Mrs F. L. Evans and Sir Edward Marsh (repr. in B. Ford, The Drawings of Richard Wilson, 1951, pls.82 and 83).

The high quality of the Tate painting, however, leaves no doubt that it is an autograph, if probably somewhat later, work. An interesting feature is the extensive overpainting of the originally much brighter sky with a duller, greyer shade, particularly noticeable where the artist was working among the branches of the trees on the right, thus concentrating the light more dramatically on the buildings on the cliff to the left. This and the pentimenti of the branches of the tree visible on the top right hand corner indicate that this is a much more deliberately composed painting, consistent with a later date.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.