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

Rome from the Villa Madama

Former Title(s):

A View of Rome from the Villa Madama

View of Rome from Villa Madama 1753

A View of Rome from the Gardens of the Villa Madama

Date:
1753
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 37 9/16 x 52 1/4 inches (95.4 x 132.7 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Signed and dated on classical block lower center: "RW [monogram, R reversed] | 1753"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1977.14.82
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
cityscape | Grand Tour | landscape | mountains | people | river | sculpture | villa
Associated Places:
Italy | Lazio | Mario, Monte | Roma | Tiber | Villa Madama
Access:
On view
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5012
Export:
XML

The Welsh painter Richard Wilson traveled to Italy in 1751 and over the course of the next five years became one of the leading landscape painters in Rome. This is one of two views of Rome commissioned from Wilson by William Legge, second Earl of Dartmouth, during his Grand Tour in 1752–53. The city is seen from the slopes of Monte Mario, to the northwest, traditionally the first view of the city seen by pilgrims arriving from the north. To the right, in shadow, is the loggia of the Villa Madama, built by Pope Clement VII from designs by Raphael. The influence of the seventeenth-century master of landscape Claude Lorrain is much in evidence in the eloquent massing of forms and the subtle movement from areas of rich shadow into a luminous distance.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016



Rome from the Villa Madama is one of two oil paintings of Rome commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who made the Grand Tour in 1752–53, during Wilson's sojourn there. The other is “Rome from the Janiculum” (Tate Britain, London). In the Center’s painting, the city is seen from the slopes of Monte Mario, to the northwest of Rome, traditionally the first view of the city seen by pilgrims arriving from the north. The fragments of classical sculpture in the foreground are contrasted to modern Rome in the distance, evoking a meditation on the transience of ancient grandeur but also on Rome as the Eternal City. To the right, in shadow, is the loggia of the Villa Madama, built by Pope Clement VII (reigned 1723-1534) from designs by Raphael. Wilson's painting closely echoes a painting of the same view made in 1736 by Jan Frans van Bloemen (1662-1749), known as l’Orizzonte, whose importance as a model for Wilson's landscape painting in his early years in Rome has been pointed out by David Solkin (David H. Solkin, Richard Wilson: The Landscape of Reaction, Tate Gallery, 1982, pp. 184–85). Yet the more profound influence of Claude Lorrain is already much in evidence in the eloquent massing of forms and the subtle movement from areas of rich shadow into a luminous distance. While Wilson’s later landscapes would show a more sensitive grasp of naturalistic detail and a more ambitious range of motifs and emotive effects, the Roman views he painted for Lord Dartmouth and others during his stay in the city are unmatched in their cool light and sense of timeless tranquility. Wilson produced several replicas of this composition for other patrons on returning to England including a version in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (no. 4879).

Gallery label for Richard Wilson and the transformation of European landscape painting (Yale Center for British Art, 03-06-2014 - 06-01-2014)



Although Wilson lived in Rome for five years, only a handful of his many views of the city and its environs are known to have been painted during that time. This one and its pendant, St. Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum, 1753-54 (Tate), were commissioned by the Grand Tourist and future politician William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801). It shows the celebrated view from Monte Mario looking south and east, with the Villa Madama nestling among trees in the middle ground to the right. The bends in the River Tiber help lead the eye downstream toward the distant city, where the most readily identified landmark is the Castel Sant'Angelo to the right. The Alban Hills, the setting of Thomas Jones's Lake Albano (adjacent), rise in the far distance.

Gallery label for An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)



Although Wilson lived in Rome for five years, only a handful of his many views of the city and its environs are known to have been painted during that time. This one and its pendant, St. Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum, 1753-54 (Tate), were commissioned by the Grand Tourist and future politician William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801). It shows the celebrated view from Monte Mario looking south and east, with the Villa Madama nestling among trees in the middle ground to the right. The bends in the River Tiber help lead the eye downstream toward the distant city, where the most readily identified landmark is the Castel Sant'Angelo to the right. The Alban Hills, the setting of Thomas Jones's Lake Albano (adjacent), rise in the far distance.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005
The city of Rome is seen toward the southeast from the slopes of Monte Mario with the loggia of the Villa Madama, designed about 1518 by Raphael for Pope Clement VII, on the right. In the center the River Tiber leads the eye toward the Eternal City and, beyond it in the far distance, the Alban Hills. This prospect was among the most famous of all Roman vistas—the point from which through the ages pilgrims from the north had caught their first sight of Rome, here set in the fading light of late afternoon. Wilson has combined antiquity, history, and topography in this emblematic image, with its prominent classical sculpture and compositional acknowledgments to his revered predecessors Claude Lorrain and Jan Frans van Bloemen (l’Orizzonte). The painting is one of two views (with cat. 61) commissioned by the Earl of Dartmouth, a key patron of Wilson. A number of versions were made, including those at the Ashmolean Museum and the National Gallery of Canada.

Paul Spencer-Longhurst

Martin Postle, Richard Wilson and the transformation of European landscape painting, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014, pp.8, 79, 193, 194-95, 196, 248, 249, Cat. No. 60, fig. 8, NJ18.W72 R53 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)



Rome from the Villa Madama is one of two oil paintings of Rome commissioned by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who made the Grand Tour in 1752.-.53, during Wilson's sojourn there. The other is Rome from the Janiculum (Tate, London). In the Center's painting, the city is seen from the slopes of Monte Mario, to the northwest of Rome, traditionally the first view of the city seen by pilgrims arriving from the north. To the right, in shadow, is the loggia of the Villa Madama, built by Pope Clement VII from designs by Raphael. Wilson's painting closely echoes a painting of the same view by Jan Frans van Bloemen, known as l'Orizzonte, whose importance as a model for Wilson's landscape painting in his early years in Rome has been pointed out by David Solkin (Solkin, 1982, pp. 184.-.85). Yet the more profound influence of Claude Lorrain is already much in evidence in the eloquent massing of forms and the subtle movement from areas of rich shadow into a luminous distance. While Wilson's later landscapes would show a more sensitive grasp of naturalistic detail and a more ambitious range of motifs and emotive effects, the Roman views he painted for Dartmouth and others during his stay in the city are unmatched in their coolly glowing light and sense of timeless tranquility.

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. 250, no. 19, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)



Although Wilson lived in Rome for five years, only a handful of his many canvases showing the city and its environs are known to have been painted during that time. With its luminous late-afternoon sky, subtle gradations of tone, and deftly observed effects of light filtering through leaves, Rome from the Villa Madama is among the most beautiful. It shows the celebrated view from Monte Mario looking south and east. The Villa Madama itself, built to designs by Raphael for Giuliano de' Medici (Pope Clement VII), nestles among the trees in the middle ground to the right. On the left the curve of the River Tiber - made more pronounced by Wilson for the purpose - helps lead the eye toward the distant city, where the most readily identified landmark is the Castel Sant'Angelo to the right. In the far distance are the Alban Hills. Judging from the fact that Wilson later produced several replicas, the composition would seem to have been much admired.

The painting was designed to accord with the classical or "ideal" notion of landscape-represented in its canonical form by the work of the seventeenth-century painter Claude Lorrain-which Wilson was to make the cornerstone of his practice as an artist. Its whole disposition suggests balance and order: nature, rough and untidy, has been improved upon. The high vista is gracefully framed by trees to either side; the river winding into depth, the carefully stepped arrangement of tonal areas, and the delicately judged effects of atmospheric perspective give a sense of clear, stately movement from foreground to distance; and the various particulars and textures of nature are smoothed over in the interests of a broad general design. These qualities were understood as the parallel in landscape to the ideal of bodily beauty in the classical tradition of sculpture and figure painting. Writing of Claude Lorrain's landscape style, Wilson's contemporary Sir Joshua Reynolds observed that "its truth is founded upon the same principle as that by which the Historical Painter acquires perfect form."1

For the eighteenth-century classicist there was no more sacred site than Rome, and Wilson pays direct homage to Antiquity by placing a fragment of Roman sculpture prominently in his foreground, a female figure leaning against what may be an ancient sarcophagus. The implication is that Rome itself, for all its present beauty, stands as the remnant of a more glorious past. The "Claudean" landscape was essentially a landscape of nostalgia, a feeling conveyed not only by the symbolic presence of classical fragments and ruins, but also by the time of day: as here, the scene is generally set in the melancholy fading light of late afternoon and sunset.

Wilson was commissioned to paint the work by the young William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, during the time the latter spent in Rome on his Grand Tour. Like many other English "milordi," Dartmouth came to Rome to complete his education in classical culture, and this led naturally to his becoming a patron of classical landscape painting. Typically, he sat to Batoni for his portrait; equally typically he engaged an artist-agent, Thomas Jenkins, to advise him on the acquisition of works of art for his collection, and it was probably through Jenkins that he met Wilson. Dartmouth and Wilson apparently went on a visit to Naples together in the spring of 1753, and after Dartmouth returned to England he gave Wilson further commissions: one was for a pendant to the present work, Rome: St. Peter's and the Vatican from the Janiculum (Tate Gallery); another was for a series of drawings of further celebrated views and classical sites around Rome, some of which are also in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art.

1 Joshua Reynolds, Discourse IV, 70

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 74-75, no. 24, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Art Treasures Exhibition (Manchester, England), Catalogue of the art treasures of the United kingdom., Bradbury and Evans, London, 1857, p. 78, no. 29, N5056 M35 M25 1857 (YCBA)

Katharine Baetjer, Glorious nature, British landscape painting, 1750-1850 , Zwemmer publisher, London, 1993, p. 100, ND1354.4 B34 1993 (YCBA)

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. 250, no. 19, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

British Art at Yale, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 288-9, pl. VII, N5220 M552 A7 1977 OVERSIZE (YCBA) Published as April 1977 issue of Apollo; all of the articles may also be found in bound Apollo Volume [N1 A54 105:2 +]

Julius Bryant, Kenwood, paintings in the Iveagh Bequest, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2003, p. 176, fig. 2, ND454 B79 2003 + (YCBA)

Duncan Bull, Classic ground, British artists and the landscape of Italy, 1740-1830 , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1981, pp. 1, 3-4, cat. 53, pl. III, ND1354.4 B85 (YCBA)

Catalogue of pictures by Richard Wilson and his circle, November 17-January 9 1948-9 , City Museum & Art Gallery Birmingham, Birmingham, 1948, p. 14, no. 17, V 2449 (YCBA)

Catalogue of an exhibition of pictures by Richard Wilson and his circle : organized by the City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, January, 1949, The Tate Gallery, London, , Tate Britain, London, 1949, p. 16, no. 16, NJ18 W72 T37 (YCBA)

W. G. Constable, Richard Wilson, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1953, pp. 33,71,80, 119, 160, 218-19., note . 107a, pl. 107a, NJ18 W72 C55 (YCBA)

Malcolm Cormack, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 252-53, N590.2 A83 (YCBA)

Malcolm Cormack, A Selective Promenade, Apollo, v.105, no. 182, April 1977, pp. 288-9, pl. VII, N1 A54 + (YCBA) Another copy of this article may be found in a separately bound and catalogued copy of this issue located on the Mellon Shelf [call number : N5220 M552 A7 1977 + (YCBA)]

Brinsley Ford, Richard Wilson in Rome, II, Burlington Magazine, vol. 94, no. 596, November, 1952, pp. 311-2, fig. 4, N1 B87 + (YCBA) Also Available Online (JSTOR)

Brinsley Ford, The Dartmouth Collection of Drawings by Richard Wilson, Burlington Magazine, vol. 90,no.549, December, 1948, pp. 337-45, N1 B87 + (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, p. 191, no. 91, pl. 33 & fig. 91, ND466 Z85 (YCBA)

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 76, ND466 G67 (YCBA)

Luke Herrmann, [ Exhibition Reviews ] Richard Wilson and the Transformation of European Landscape Painting, YCBA, New Haven, 6 March - 1 June National Museum Wales / Amueddfa Cymru, Cardiff 5 July - 26 October , British Art Journal, Vol. 15, Autumn 2014, p. 120, N6761 B74 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

John Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy, 1701-1800, compiled from the Brinsley Ford archive , Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997, p. 1008, , DG424 D53 1997 (YCBA)

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 74-75, no. 24, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Henry A. Minton, The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo, the representation of architecture , Thames and Hudson, London, 1994, no. 219, NA1115 R397X 1994 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

Edmund Ollier, The English Claude, Magazine of Art, vol. 5, January 1882, p. 355, N1 M34 + (YCBA) Available online in British Periodicals Database.

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Martin Postle, Richard Wilson and the transformation of European landscape painting, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014, pp.8, 79, 193, 194-95, 196, 248, 249, Cat. No. 60, fig. 8, NJ18.W72 R53 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Skira editore, Hogarth Reynolds Turner : British painting and the rise of modernity, Rome, 2014, p.92, fig. 2, ND466 .H65 2014 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

David H. Solkin, Richard Wilson, the landscape of reaction, Tate Publishing, London, 1982, pp. 14-15, 47, 74, 138 fn 49, 184-85, no. 67, no. 67, NJ18 W72 S65 + (YCBA)

Spencer-Longhurst, Paul, with Kate Lowry and David Solkin, Richard Wilson Online : A Digital Catalogue Raisonne, , The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London, 2014, no. P56, http://www.richardwilsononline.ac.uk/index.php?WINID=1582051040261

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)

Visits to Private Galleries of the British School - The Collection of Hugh Munro, Esq., Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, Art Journal, vol. 3:29, May 1857, p. 134, S2166 (SML Film) Available online in British Periodicals database.

Yale Center for British Art, Selected paintings, drawings & books, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. 22, N590.2 A82 (YCBA)

Yale Center for British Art, Selected paintings, drawings & books, Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 1977, p. 22, 715 Y18 977b (YCBA)


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