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Oil painting - Mendicants of the Roman Campagna
  • Mendicants of the Roman Campagna
    Rippingille, Edward Villiers, born 1798 - died 1859
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Mendicants of the Roman Campagna

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    1840 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rippingille, Edward Villiers, born 1798 - died 1859 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    oil on canvas

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857

  • Museum number:

    FA.173[O]

  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, room 122h, case WS

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Object Type
Oil paintings depicting the Italian and Swiss countryside grew in popularity in the first half of the 19th century. They appealed particularly to collectors such as John Sheepshanks (1787-1863) and the Reverend Chauncey Hare Townshend (1798-1868).

Subject Depicted
Italy had long been recognised as a fertile source of themes for paintings and many artists travelled there in the 19th century. Italian beggars or 'mendicants' of the Roman Campagna (the countryside around Rome) looked very picturesque in the eyes of British artists, especially if the Italians were young, female and pretty, as here. Their colourful costumes and the beauty of the Italian countryside made a most attractive subject, especially as the darker aspects of poverty were not shown.

People
Rippingille exhibited this painting at the Royal Academy in 1844. According to a note on the back of the picture, he was furious to find that it was hung by the organisers virtually at floor level, so that the public were unlikely to see it. Nevertheless, John Sheepshanks noticed it and bought it directly from the artist. Rippingille claimed to be the first person to advocate the establishment of the Schools of Design.

Physical description

Oil painting entitled 'Mendicants of the Campagna' depicting two women and a child, mendicants or beggars, reclining in the setting of a classical ruin.

Date

1840 (made)

Artist/maker

Rippingille, Edward Villiers, born 1798 - died 1859 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

oil on canvas

Marks and inscriptions

'E V Rippingille ROMA 1840/London 1844

Dimensions

Height: 36.8 cm estimate, Width: 57.3 cm estimate

Object history note

Given by John Sheepshanks, 1857. By Edward Villiers Rippingille (probably born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, 1798, died in Swan village, Staffordshire, 1859)

Descriptive line

Oil painting entitled 'Mendicants of the Campagna' by Edward Villers Rippingille. British School, 1840.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Catalogue of British Oil Paintings 1820-1860, Ronald Parkinson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London: HMSO, 1990, p. 250
This is the full text of the catalogue entry:

"RIPPINGILLE, Edward Villers (1798-1859)
Born King's Lvnn, Norfolk, 1798, son of a farmer. First self-taught, then student of Edward Bird at Bristol. Exhibited at the Norwich Society and the RA at the age of 15. Exhibited 41 works at the RA between 1813 and 1857, 19 at the BI 1820-49, and 12 (including seven watercolours) at the SBA 1824-35. Subjects were of English rural life until visits in 1830-2 to France, Germany and Italy; best known for genre paintings such as his first success 'The Country Post Office' (1819). Won prize in Westminster Hall fresco competition 1843. Lectured, established the short-lived Artists and Amateurs Magazine, wrote 'Personal Recollections of Great Artists' for the Art Journal, wrote fiction for periodicals and poetry (the unpublished Consolation of Hope), and claimed to be the first to advocate the formation of Schools of Design. Died suddenly at Swan Valley railway station, Staffordshire, 22 April 1859. His brother Alexander was also an artist, exhibiting 1815-35. The poet John Clare called him 'a rattling sort of odd fellow with a desire to be thought one ... a man of genius as a painter'.

LIT: Art Journal 1859, pp187 (obit), 332; Athenaeum 7 May 1859, p187 (obit); F Greenacre The Bristol School of Artists Bristol City Art Gallery exhibition catalogue, 1973, ppl21-7

Mendicants of the Campagna
FA173 Neg V649
Canvas, 36.8 X 57.3 cm (14½X 22 5/8 ins)
Signed and dated 'E V Rippingille ROMA 1840/London 1844' on stone bl Sheepshanks Gift 1857
Exhibited at the RA in 1844 as 'Beggars of the Roman Campagna'. On the back of the canvas is the inscription:

Beggars of the Campagna Romana/Mem: This picture, sent for exhibition at the/Royal Academy was placed on the/floor and has never been seen by the public/painted almost entirely with a/Magnilp or solution of sugar of/lead in Water & Mastic Varnish 1844/Bought of the Artist by John Sheepshanks Esqr.

This anguished inscription provides a vivid reminder of the crowded walls of the Victorian Royal Academy, hung from floor to ceiling with paintings, and the importance of a picture being hung 'on the line'. This term referred to a ledge 5.4 cm (2 ins) deep which ran round the walls in the earlier homes of the Academy at Somerset House and Trafalgar Square, at a height of 243.8 cm (8 feet) from the floor. All large pictures were 'above the line', the weight of the larger being supported by the ledge. Thus the best position was 'on the line', or just above eye level; a contributory factor to the smaller average size of paintings in the second quarter of the 19th century. When the Academy moved to its present home at Burlington House in 1869, the line was abolished and larger pictures again became fashionable.
The critic of the Art Union commented

'Mendicants of the Campagna Romana. Two females with children, and not in the immediate exercise of their ancient and honoured vocation. We do not, therefore here 'Un qualtrino per l'amor di Dio', for they are lying at length and leisure, abiding their time and their patrons. The figures are highly characteristic, and closely descriptive of the parties.
At the same RA exhibition, Rippingille showed 'Children of Sonnino, Italy' (275), which may be a pendant to the present work.

EXH: RA 1844 (273)

LIT: Art Union 1844, p159

Ronald Parkinson."

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Before he moved to London in 1832, Edward Rippingille had been the most prominent painter in Bristol, although he never achieved great recognition in the capital. His ambitious nature led him to travel to Germany, France and Italy, where he worked between 1837 and 1841 producing paintings in the picturesque Italian style seen in this work. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

dated 1840

Materials

Canvas; Oil paint

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Charity; Beggar

Categories

British Galleries; Paintings

Collection code

PDP

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