Maecenas’ Villa (Tivoli) was published as plate four in W.B. Cooke’s series The Gems of Art: an edition of mezzotints after works by famous 16th, 17th and 18th-century artists. This plate is after a painting by Richard Wilson, which at the time hung in the Dulwich Picture Gallery and continues to be displayed there to this day.
Wilson is remembered as a pioneer and reviver of British landscape art. Trained in Italy, he painted idealised Italianate scenes like this view of Maecenas’ Villa (Tivoli) and landscapes based on classical literature in the style of Claude (1600-82). An artist, possibly Wilson himself, can be seen in the foreground of this view, painting the scene before him. The Tivoli ‘cascatelle’ or waterfall is at left, with the town itself above. At centre are the ruins of the Temple of Hercules Victor, formerly thought to be the villa of Emperor Octavian’s advisor Gaius Maecenas (68 BC-8 BC).