<< YCBA Home Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art << YCBA Home

YCBA Collections Search

IIIF Actions
Joseph Wright of Derby, 1734–1797
Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight, with Silius Italicus
Former Title(s):

Virgil's Tomb by Moonlight

Virgil's Tomb, with the Figure of Silius Italicus, who bought an estate enriched with this very tomb. He was frequent in his visitation to this monument of his master. [1779, Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition catalogue]
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
40 1/16 x 50 1/4 inches (101.8 x 127.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
cave | landscape | literary theme | man | portrait | steps | tomb
Associated Places:
Italy | Napoli | Posillipo
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Wright painted many versions of this composition, one of his most popular subjects. It represents Silius Italicus, a Roman consul under the Emperor Nero who devoted his later life to the study of literature. His passionate admiration for Vergil led him to buy the poet's estate and tomb at Posillipo, near Naples. Each year he recited Vergil’s poetry inside the tomb on the anniversary of the poet’s death. Wright shows him inside the tomb by candlelight, declaiming Vergil's verses aloud as though trying to raise his spirit.

Gallery label for Love, Life, Death, and Desire: An Installation of the Center's Collections (Yale Center for British Art, 2020-11-01 – 2021-02-28)

Love, Life, Death, and Desire: An Installation of the Center's Collections (Yale Center for British Art, 2020-10-01 - 2021-02-28) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Noble Simplicity and Silent Greatness - Neoclassical Art from 1700 - 1900 (Yale University Art Gallery, 1991-04-26 - 1991-09-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Classic Ground - British Artists and the Landscape of Italy, 1740-1830 (Yale Center for British Art, 1981-07-29 - 1981-09-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Romance and Reality (Wildenstein) (Wildenstein & Company, Inc., 1978-09-22 - 1978-12-07) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Lance Bertelsen, David Garrick and English Painting, Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 11, Spring 1978, pp.311, 320, fig. 5, NX452 E54 11 (YCBA) Also available online at JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2738195 [YCBA]

Duncan Bull, Classic ground : British artists and the landscape of Italy, 1740-1830, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1981, pp. 13, 37-8, no. 36, pl. II, ND1354.4 B85 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 262-263, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Matthew Craske, Joseph Wright of Derby : Painter of darkness, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven, pp. 216-217, fig. 144, NJ18.W95 C72 2020+ (YCBA) [YCBA]

Judy Egerton, Wright of Derby, Tate Publishing, London, 1990, p. 120-21, NJ18 W95 +E54 1990 Oversize (YCBA) [YCBA]

Llewellynn Jewitt, Wright of Derby, Art Journal, vol. 60, December 1866, p. 377, J10 Ar74 + (LSF) [ORBIS]

Joseph Wright of Derby, St. James Chronicle or the British Evening Post, London, April 29-May 1, 1779, Arts & Entertainment page, Available online from 17th-18th Century Burney C Available online from 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers. [ORBIS]

Benedict Nicolson, Wright of Derby: Addenda and Corrigenda, Burlington Magazine, vol. 130, October 1988, pp. 755, 756, fig.42, N1 B87 + (YCBA) Also available online at JSTOR. [YCBA]

J. B. Trapp, The Grave of Vergil, Journal of the Warburg and Courtald Institutes, vol. 47, 1984, pp. 26 n.166, pls 10b, AS122 L8515 (YCBA) [YCBA]

If you have information about this object that may be of assistance please contact us.