Museums and Art

“The Tomb of Virgil”, Joseph Wright - description of the painting

“The Tomb of Virgil”, Joseph Wright - description of the painting

Virgil's Tomb - Joseph Wright

“The Tomb of Virgil” (eng. Cloths depict the ruins of a building near Naples, which is considered a crypt where the ancient Roman epic poet Virgil, the “Mantouan swan” is buried. Three paintings with one theme, painted in oil, were created after the artist made a trip to Italy in 1773 -1785, in 1779, 1782 and 1785, respectively - the first is now in a private collection, the second is in the Derby art gallery in Wright's homeland, and the third is in the Ulster Museum.

All paintings depict a view of the grave from the same angle. The first canvas depicts a dark silhouette of a tower-like building with vegetation at the top and a passage below against the background of the night sky, where through the silvery clouds you can see the moon illuminating the right edge of the grave. Most of the picture is obscured, the lighting is depressing and the general appearance of the grave is gloomy. To the right of the building are steps leading down the road past the walls and bushes. On the grave, in the room under the tower, a dark dim light burns, creating a separate space from the general moonlit painting, where the artist depicts the figure of Celia Italik sitting at the wall niches - a poet who lived a little later than Virgil and extolled him.

In the second picture (1782) the plot is depicted by the author with the same time of day, but, in general, a little brighter. To the right of the steps, a large tree bends, branches covering the upper part of the sky and reaching the top of the turret. On the grave, as shown in the last version of the picture, there is no one; in the lower room it is light - perhaps the moon, visible through the gaps between the clouds, illuminates it through the holes in the tower.

On Wright’s last painting on this subject, Virgil’s grave is depicted in the daytime and on the right side of the gray-blue clouds covering the sky, the light of the sun is visible, illuminating the tomb by two-thirds. The whole landscape seems more deserted than in other paintings of the cycle - the foliage of plants on the tower and near the road is not so dense and everything seems completely abandoned. There is light inside the grave, but it falls differently than in the second picture. In general, the picture was worked out in much more detail than the other two, although Wright does not experiment with lighting here, which is typical for him and that is especially expressed in the first painting, written in 1779.


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