The crater of an extinct volcano about seventeen miles southeast of Rome, Lake Nemi has served as a rural retreat from Rome since ancient times and became a favorite subject for painters. Inness visited Lake Nemi during both of his trips to Italy (1851–52, 1870–74) and spent the summer of...
The crater of an extinct volcano about seventeen miles southeast of Rome, Lake Nemi has served as a rural retreat from Rome since ancient times and became a favorite subject for painters. Inness visited Lake Nemi during both of his trips to Italy (1851–52, 1870–74) and spent the summer of 1872 in Castel Gandolfo on neighboring Lake Albano. He depicted Lake Nemi in at least nine works, including another [49.412] in the MFA’s collection, made during his 1872 visit to the area. In this 1874 composition, Inness chose to take for his view one of the outstanding prospects of the lake, including on the left the town of Nemi, identified by the distinctive round tower of the Colonna castle, and looking across the lake to the town of Genzano. As early as the eighteenth century, artists such as the British painters Richard Wilson (Lake Nemi, 1760, private collection) and Joseph Wright of Derby (Lake Nemi, Sunset, 1790, Musée du Louvre, Paris) had depicted the scene from nearly the same spot. Inness created a strong composition by portraying the scene in the morning light and filling the foreground with the dark, strong silhouette of the near side of the steeply sloped lake shore. He rendered the far side of the lake and sky in lighter colors, producing the effect of a hazy distant view. This small scene is a study for a recently rediscovered larger work from 1874 (private collection). The MFA purchased Lake Nemi for $2,500 in 1921 to enhance its collection of paintings by Inness, who was considered the dean of American landscape painters when he died in 1894. Interest in Inness’s work remained strong after his death: historians today continue to consider him one of the major American artists. Notes 1. Michael Quick, e-mail messages to Erica E. Hirshler, July 11, 2008, and July 16, 2008, curatorial files, Department of Art of the Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Janet L. Comey
Lower right: G. Inness
About 1874, the artist; with Slater Studios, New York; by 1912, George H. Ainslie Galleries, New York; after 1917, with George S. Payne, Springfield, Mass.; 1921, sold by George S. Payne to the MFA for $2,500. (Accession Date: April 7, 1921)
The Hayden Collection—Charles Henry Hayden Fund