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The orator Cicero and his brother Quintus show their ancestral estate to Atticus: they discuss the beauty of nature; humans' attachment to their family origins; and the longevity of local identity. Engraving by W. Woollett, 1778, after R. Wilson.

  • Wilson, Richard, 1713-1782
Date
June 4th. 1778
Reference
3065565i
  • Pictures

About this work

Description

The Cicero brothers showing to Atticus their homeland at Arpinum (Arpino) outside Rome, as described by Marcus Tullius Cicero in his work De legibus II.3-5. Marcus Tullius Cicero, his brother Quintus, and Titus Pomponius Atticus have come to an island at the confluence of two branches of the river Fibrenus, joined to the river bank by a bridge. The reunited river descends a weir and rapids, and flows under the bridge towards the right. On the far bank a large mansion with a portico, representing Cicero's ancestral villa, is seen behind trees. Beyond are hills and a mountain range. In the foreground, heavily etched, are a fallen tree trunk and large dock plants. The setting introduces a discussion on the relationship between nature and civilisation

The scene described by Cicero in De legibus II.1-6 as follows: "Atticus: Sed uisne, quoniam et satis iam ambulatum est, et tibi aliud dicendi initium sumendum est, locum mutemus et in insula quae est in Fibreno (nam opinor hoc illi alteri flumini nomen esse) sermoni reliquo demus operam sedentes? Marcus: Sane quidem. Nam illo loco libentissime soleo uti, siue quid mecum ipse cogito, siue aliquid scribo aut lego. Atticus: Equidem, qui nunc potissimum huc uenerim, satiari non queo, magnificasque uillas et pauimenta marmorea et laqueata tecta contemno. Ductus uero aquarum quos isti Nilos et Euripos uocant, quis non cum haec uideat inriserit? Itaque, ut tu paulo ante de lege et de iure disserens ad naturam referebas omnia, sic in his ipsis rebus quae ad requietem animi delectationemque quaeruntur, natura dominatur. Quare antea mirabarnihil enim his in locis nisi saxa et montis cogitabam, itaque ut facerem, et orationibus inducebar tuis et uersibussed mirabar, ut dixi, te tam ualde hoc loco delectari. Nunc contra miror te, cum Roma absis, usquam potius esse. Marcus: Ego uero, cum licet pluris dies abesse, praesertim hoc tempore anni, et amoenitatem et salubritatem hanc sequor; raro autem licet. Sed nimirum me alia quoque causa delectat, quae te non attingit, Tite. Atticus: Quae tandem ista causa est? Marcus: Quia, si uerum dicimus, haec est mea et huius fratris mei germana patria. Hinc enim orti stirpe antiquissima sumus, hic sacra, hic genus, hic maiorum multa uestigia. Quid plura? Hanc uides uillam, ut nunc quidem est lautius aedificatam patris nostri studio, qui cum esset infirma ualetudine, hic fere aetatem egit in litteris. Sed hoc ipso in loco, cum auus uiueret et antiquo more parua esset uilla, ut illa Curiana in Sabinis, me scito esse natum. Quare inest nescio quid et latet in animo ac sensu meo, quo me plus aequo hic locus fortasse delectet, nec sine causa si quidem etiam ille sapientissimus uir, Ithacam ut uideret, immortalitatem scribitur repudiasse. Atticus: Ego uero tibi istam iustam causam puto, cur huc libentius uenias atque hunc locum diligas. Quin ipse, uere dicam, sum illi uillae amicior modo factus atque huic omni solo, in quo tu ortus et procreatus es. Mouemur enim nescio quo pacto locis ipsis, in quibus eorum quos diligimus aut admiramur adsunt uestigia. Me quidem ipsae illae nostrae Athenae non tam operibus magnificis exquisitisque antiquorum artibus delectant, quam recordatione summorum uirorum, ubi quisque habitare, ubi sedere, ubi disputare sit solitus, studioseque eorum etiam sepulcra contemplor. Quare istum, ubi tu es natus, plus amabo posthac locum. Marcus: Gaudeo igitur me incunabula paene mea tibi ostendisse. [] [6] Sed uentum in insulam est. Hac uero nihil est amoenius. Etenim hoc quasi rostro finditur Fibrenus, et diuisus aequaliter in duas partes latera haec adluit, rapideque dilapsus cito in unum confluit, et tantum conplectitur quod satis sit modicae palaestrae loci. Quo effecto, tamquam id habuerit operis ac muneris, ut hanc nobis efficeret sedem ad disputandum, statim praecipitat in Lirem, et quasi in familiam patriciam uenerit, amittit nomen obscurius Liremque multo gelidiorem facit. Nec enim ullum hoc frigidius flumen attigi, cum ad multa accesserim, ut uix pede temptare id possim, quod in Phaedro Platonis facit Socrates."

Wilson shows Marcus Tullius Cicero pointing up at a mature oak tree. This action seems to be a rendering of De legibus I.1-4, where Quintus Tullius Cicero shows to Atticus an ancient oak tree in which Marius saw an eagle as described in the poem Marius by Marcus Tullius Cicero: "Atticus: Lucus quidem ille et haec Arpinatium quercus agnoscitur, saepe a me lectus in Mario: si enim manet illa quercus, haec est profecto; etenim est sane uetus. Quintus: Manet uero, Attice noster, et semper manebit: sata est enim ingenio. Nullius autem agricolae cultu stirps tam diuturna quam poetae uersu seminari potest. Atticus: Quo tandem modo, Quinte? Aut quale est istuc quod poetae serunt? Mihi enim uideris fratrem laudando suffragari tibi. Quintus:Sit ita sane; uerum tamen dum Latinae loquentur litterae, quercus huic loco non deerit quae Mariana dicatur, eaque, ut ait Scaeuola de fratris mei Mario, canescet saeclis innumerabilibus, nisi forte Athenae tuae sempiternam in arce oleam tenere potuerunt, aut quam Homericus Vlixes Deli se proceram et teneram palmam uidisse dixit, hodie monstrant eandem, multaque alia multis locis diutius commemoratione manent quam natura stare potuerunt. Quare glandifera illa quercus, ex qua olim euolauit nuntia fulua Iouis miranda uisa figura, nunc sit haec. Sed cum eam tempestas uetustasue consumpserit, tamen erit his in locis quercus quam Marianam quercum uocabunt."

The place was later called Carnello, and became an industrial area with a large paper-making factory

Publication/Creation

London (in Green Street, Leicester Fields) : Published as the Act directs ... by Wm. Woollett, June 4th. 1778.

Physical description

1 print : engraving, with etching ; platemark 44.4 x 55.8 cm

Lettering

Cicero at his villa. To Sir John Smith, Bart., this plate is inscribed, by his most humble serv.t Will.m Woollett. Painted by Rich.d Wilson R.A. Engraved by Wm. Woollett Engraver to his Majesty

References note

Richard Wilson online catalogue raisonné, accessed 26 September 2018, nos. P162 (painting) and E45 (engraving)

Lettering note

Bears coat of arms, presumably of Sir John Smith

Reference

Wellcome Library no. 3065565i

Reproduction note

After a painting by Wilson exhibited (possibly not this version) at the Royal Academy in 1770, no. 201 (described in the catalogue as "Cicero and his two friends, Atticus and Quintus, at his villa at Arpinum. Vide Cic. de leg. lib. 2 p. 74"); acquired by Sir John Smith Bt. (1744-1807), of Sydling House, Sydling St Nicholas, Dorset; from 2007 in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Languages

  • English


Where to find it

  • impresssion laid down on canvas for exhibition in a frame
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    Closed stores
  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores

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