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Richard Wilson RA, 1714–1782, British, active in Italy (1750–56)

The Arbra Sacra on the Banks of Lake Nemi

Former Title(s):

Studie eines alten Baumes and einem Seeufer

between 1754 and 1756
Black chalk with white chalk on moderately thick, moderately textured, greened white laid paper
Sheet: 15 5/16 × 22 inches (38.9 × 55.9 cm)

Inscribed in graphite, on back, lower right: "RICHARD WILSON: ANCIENT TREE"

collector's stamp of the Earl of Warwick (Lugt 2600), in black ink, lower right

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
Grand Tour | lake | landscape | tree
Associated Places:
Europe | Italy | Lago di Nemi | Lazio | Roma
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Similar to the Dartmouth series in date and in the sensitivity of its draftsmanship is Wilson’s drawing of a plane tree on the banks of Lake Nemi in the Alban Hills south of Rome. Known as the Speculum Dianae (Mirror of Diana), Lake Nemi was revered by eighteenth-century travelers for its association with the Roman goddess of the hunt. The tree in Wilson’s drawing is presumably the one mentioned by his pupil Thomas Jones, when he visited Nemi in April 1778: “All went to make sketches about the Lake of Nemi—particularly a large Plane tree call’d the Arbor Santa, which has a hollow within that I believe w’d contain about a dozen persons & I was told that my Old Master Willson when in this Country made use of it as a Study to paint in” (Jones, “Memoirs”, p. 58).

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 251, no. 21, p. 21, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Gage, Zwei Jahrhunderte englische Malerei, britische Kunst und Europa 1680 bis 1880 : [Ausstellung] Haus der Kunst Mèunchen, 21. November 1979 bis 27. Januar 1980: [Katalog] , Ausstellungsleitung Haus der Kunst Mèunchen, Mèunchen, 1979, pp. 206-07, no. 104, fig. 104, ND466 Z85 (YCBA)

Martin Postle, Richard Wilson and the transformation of European landscape painting, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014, pp. 310, 311, Cat. No. 135, NJ18.W72 R53 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Greg Smith, Thomas Jones (1742-1803) : an artist rediscovered, , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2003, p. 129, no. 19, pl. . no. 19, NJ18 J714 T56 2003 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

David H. Solkin, Richard Wilson, the landscape of reaction, Tate Publishing, London, 1982, pp.172-74, no. 52, no. 52, NJ18 W72 S65 + (YCBA)

David Stacey, [ Exhibition Reviews ] And another view of the Richard Wilson exhibition ..., British Art Journal, vol. 15, Autumn 2014, p. 122, N6761 B74 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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