17th & 18th century architectural paintings
Cover: Leonardo Coccorante Architectural Capriccio with Figures and Ruins by the Sea (one of a pair) This Page: Detail, Gian Paolo Panini Figures Conversing Among the Ruins Following Page: Detail, Viviano Codazzi Colosseum and Arch of Constantine
17th & 18th Century Italian Architectural Paintings Catalogue
Piraneseum specializes in European architectural pictures and models of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Our focus in pictures is with 17th and 18th century Italian paintings. These are both realistic views - vedute essate or vedute reale - and architectural fantasies - vedute ideate, or capricci.
Interestingly, Ghisolfi also plays a role in another of this Catalogue’s pictures - a capriccio whose authorship is given to a somewhat mysterious artist, currently identified as the Monogrammist GAE. Art historians posit this likely northern Italian painter was either a young Ghisolfi, or a later artist working in Ghisolfi’s style.
The genre of architectural painting in Italy is a Baroque development, beginning near the start of the 17th century. The most important Baroque architectural painter was Viviano Codazzi, and this Catalogue includes a splendid, large picture of his, from the 1650’s, The Colosseum and Arch of Constantine.
Equally mysterious, though in different ways, is an attractive, unusually and carefully composed, highly accomplished canvas, which came to us with one appearance, and, after diligent restoration, has emerged looking very different. Now revealed are new, startlingly-scaled figures, two rounds of early re-working, and a different format! As yet unknown are the picture’s origins and authorship.
Working slightly later in the century was Giovanni Ghisolfi, a key figure in the development of the genre of architectural fantasy painting, or capriccio. Of course, most artists worked in multiple genres; and this Catalogue includes three pictures by Ghisolfi, two capricci of Roman ruins, and another realistic view of the Arch of Titus in Rome’s Forum. Especially notable is Ghisolfi’s influence on the most well-known 18th century architectural painter, Gian Paolo Panini.
In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a group of Neapolitan painters, working in their exuberant, singular late Baroque manner, pushed architectural fantasy painting in unexpected directions, with unusual lighting, scenographic, and narrative content. Among the most prominent of these was Gennaro Greco, called “Il Mascacotta”, owing to a childhood disfigurement.
Other Neapolitan vedutistas included Asciano Luciano, a student of Codazzi. Perhaps the most distinctive of these artists was Leonardo Coccorante. This Catalogue includes pictures by all three painters. Gian Paolo Panini, the Roman architectural painter inspired by Ghisolfi, and the most famous of Italian vedutistas, began his half century long career about 1715. He was a prodigal success from the beginning, his magnificent, carefully delineated pictures much esteemed by Grand Tourists. This Catalogue includes two paintings by Panini, one a characteristic work of his late maturity, the other an unusual view from his youth. He was sufficiently successful that he required a large workshop to assist in the production of his paintings. Paniniâ€™s favorite member of that staff was a Frenchman, Hubert Robert, who went on to a career in France just as successful as his mentorâ€™s. This Catalogue includes a lovely, small Roman-inspired view by Robert. In the international art market, all these paintings are part of the much more general trade in Old Master pictures, a term necessarily imprecise, but which often
The works of all painters featured in this Catalogue are included in the collections of museums around the world. Because these architectural pictures may be 250 to 350 years old, they are often found in states requiring some conservation. CFA works with several long-established and experienced conservators in the United States and England, in order that pictures achieve their best appearance. If we can provide any additional information regarding pictures in this Catalogue, or if you have other questions, we hope youâ€™ll be in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
17th & 18th Century Italian Architectural Paintings Viviano Codazzi (figures by Michelangelo Cerquozzi) (Bergamo c. 1604 - 1670) & (Rome 1602 - 1660) The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine Asciano Luciano (Naples 1621 - 1706) Ruined Arcade with the Vision of St. Augustine Giovanni Ghisolfi (Milan 1623 - 1683) Philosophers Conversing Among the Ruins Giovanni Ghisolfi Figures Conversing Among Ruins, a Pyramid in the Distance Giovanni Ghisolfi The Arch of Titus Italian School, unattributed 17th, early 18th century Figures Among a Pyramid and Two Ruined Temples Monogrammist GAE (Northern Italian, 17th Century) Alexander the Great at the Tomb of Achilles Gennaro Greco â€œIl Mascacottaâ€?
(Naples 1663 - 1714 Nola) An Architectural Capriccio with Figures Amid Classical Ruins
Leonardo Coccorante “Il Giordano di Prospettivo” (Naples 1680 - 1750) An Architectural Capriccio with Figures and Statue of Herculess Leonardo Coccorante Pair of Architectural Capricci with Figures and Ruins by the Sea Leonardo Coccorante Pair of Architectural Capricci with Figures Before a Sarcophagus; and Figures in a Ruined Arcade Pietro Paltronieri (attributed) “Il Mirandolese dalle Prospettive” (Mirandola 1673 - 1741 Bologna) Three Capricci with Figures Among Ruins Gian Paolo Panini (Piacenza 1691 - 1765 Rome) Figures Conversing Among Roman Ruins Gian Paolo Panini View of Classical Ruins Hubert Robert “Robert des Ruines” (Paris 1733 - 1808) Figures Before a Round Temple
Viviano Codazzi Bergamo 1606 - 1670 Rome figures by Michelangelo Cerquozzi Rome 1602 - 1660 Colosseum and Arch of Constantine 144 x 196 cm., oil on canvas “Who was Viviano Codazzi? The simple answer is that he was the most important seventeenth century painter of the type of architectural view better known from the works of Gian Paolo Panini,” writes David Marshall in Viviano and Niccolo Codazzi and the Baroque Architectural Fantasy (1993). Born in Bergamo in 1606, by the 1620’s Viviano had reached Naples, where he began to paint already possessing skills with quadratura - architectural perspective. Interestingly, despite working in Naples until moving to Rome in 1647, Codazzi did not adopt the flamboyant mannerisms characteristic of Neapolitan, high Baroque painting, instead pursuing a more straightforward, carefully delineated realism. In Naples, Codazzi befriended Domenico Gargiulo, who often painted the figures in Viviano’s architectural compositions. In Rome, he turned for figures to the Bamboccianti - very often, though not always, Dutch painters, working in a Netherlandish style, depicting workaday people going about their everyday business. The contrast between these figures and ancient, enormous, magnificent architectural ruins that form their setting is at the heart of the appeal of much of Codazzi’s Roman painting. This large, impressive, as yet unpublished picture is, believes Marshall, a precursor to VC105 and VC105a in Viviano and Niccolo Codazzi .......; and a high example of the painter’s work in the 1650’s. These later pictures are in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Lulworth Manor in England. The very highly realized figure group is by Michelangelo Cerquozzi, of the Roman Bamboccianti painters, with whom Codazzi collaborated on many pictures. In addition to these realistic views - vedute essate Codazzi realized much more imaginative architectural compositions - vedute ideate. His son, Niccolo, was also an accomplihed painter of architectural views. As Marshall points out, Vivano had many other followers, including Ascanio Luciano, whose work we see in the following section. Codazzi’s work is in the collections of the Prado, Uffizi, and Galleria Spada, in Rome.
Ascanio Luciano Naples 1621 - 1706 Ruined Arcade with the Vision of St. Augustine 65 x 78 cm., oil on canvas The Neapolitan Ascanio Luciano was 13 when architectural painter Viviano Codazzi came to Naples in 1634; and 26 when he left for Rome, as Marshall observes in Viviano and Niccolo Codazzi. That Ascanio (the “pseudo-Codazzi” is Marshall’s description) was Codazzi’s student is clear in the younger man’s work, which, over the past 300 years, has often been mistaken for his teacher’s. After Codazzi’s departure, Luciano’s painting developed more individual qualities, less focused on precise architectural rendering, in the tradition of quadratura; more interested in colorful effect and, occasionally, portraying various sacred and Biblical scenes. Among these are period favorites, such as The Massacre of the Innocents and Christ Expelling the Money-changers from the Temple. As Marshall points out, Luciano’s late works, including the painting pictured here, are signed by the artist. Ours reads “Luciano” at the lower left. This picture is very similar to AL53, shown in Viviano and Niccolo Codazzi, which Marshall dates to ca.1691. This is a lovely, colorful painting, the architecture teeming with unlikely decoration, reminiscent of the flamboyant, fantastical imagery of Francois de Nome, another Neapolitan painter of imaginary architectural views. Unlike the alarm characteristic of de Nome, though, Luciano offers his off-kilter architecture as a setting for St. Augustine’s gentle vision of a child. While not a fan of Luciano’s late work, Marshall allows of AL53 that “it has an undeniable painterly vigor”. Luciano’s paintings are included in the collections of the Hermitage, Prado, and Palazzo Pitti.
Giovanni Ghisolfi Milan 1623 - 1683 Philosophers Conversing Amongst Ruins 65 x 48.5 cm., oil on canvas With some painters, their influence on later artists, and effect on the course of Art, may be just as important as their own work. Historian Rudolf Wittkower writes of Giovanni Ghisolfi, “... he made his fortune as Italy’s first painter of views with fanciful ruins.” These views - called capricci or veduti ideate - became a distinct movement in Italian painting, stretching over a century and a half. Adds Wittkower, “Rome had at least one great master (Gian Paolo Panini) who raised both the vedute esatte and vedute ideate (exact and imaginary views) to the level of great art ... (O)ne cannot doubt that he received vital impulses from the precise art of Giovanni Ghisolfi, whose vedute ideate show the characteristically Roman scenic arrangements of ruins”. Nobly born in Milan in 1623, his father an architect, and trained in architectural painting by his uncle Antonio Volpeno, Ghisolfi travelled to Rome in 1650. There, he struck up a friendship with the Neapolitan-born Salvator Rosa, described by Wittkower as the “most unorthodox and extravagant of the Late Baroque Roman painters”. In addition to working in his studio, Ghisolfi frequently collaborated with Rosa over the course of his careet, the latter adding figures to the former’s architectural views. Interestingly, Andrea Busiri Vici, in his 1992 Giovanni Ghisolfi - Un Pittore Milanese di Rovine Romanae, suggests the additional influence of Francesco de Nome, a highly idisyncratic, proto-surrealist painter of architectural fantasies, at work in Naples in the first part of the 17th century. Certainly, Ghisolfi’s “invention” of the vedute ideate - imaginary architectural scene - is easier to understand given the emphatically displacing, fantastical effects of Rosa and de Nome. This painting, showing robed philosophers holding forth in an imaginary setting, epitomizes “the characteristically Roman scenic arrangement of ruins” described by Wittkower; and is a clear precursor to later work by Panini, some of it along very similar lines. Stylistically similar to No. 93 - Predica di un Apostolo Presso le Tre Colonne del Tempio di Vespasiano - in Busiri Vici’s Giovanni Ghisolfi, note especially the Temple’s similarly proportioned fluted columns, unusual composite capitals, and spiralling, floriform carving to the interior of the architrave. Ghisolfi’s work is in the collections of the Uffizi, Pushkin Museum, Moscow, and National Museum, Prague.
Giovanni Ghisolfi Milan 1623 - 1683 Figures Conversing Amongst Ruins, a Pyramid in the Distance 49 x 66 cm., oil on canvas Typical of Ghisolfi’s more intimate capricci, this canvas features an especially lively, closely-observed, and vigorously–rendered group of figures, of a type not far distant from those painted by Gian Paolo Panini, seventy-five years later. Especially interesting is the redshirted figure second from the right, whose posture, profile, headwear, and facial composition are a near match to the figure, also second from the right in another of our pictures by this artist – Philosophers Conversing Among Ruins. With these two capricci, note, as well, the similar arrangements of the figures – a central group of four men, attended by a peripheral pair. Note, too, in the decoration of the ruined temple’s entablature, the characteristic Ghisolfian device of spiraling vine-form ornament; as well as the literally punctuating vertical element of a solitary statue atop a pedestal. At the back side of the canvas, written in an antique hand, a label offers another title “The Ruins and Landscape by Gisolphi; The Figures by Gaspar Poussin”. What an interesting, though highly unlikely collaboration that might have proved! For more about Ghisolfi, please see our description of Philosophers Conversing Amongst Ruins.
Giovanni Ghisolfi Milan 1623 - 1683 Arch of Titus, Rome 68 x 50.8 cm., oil on canvas A characteristic example of “the precise art of Giovanni Ghisolfi”, described by Rudolf Wittkower in his Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600 - 1750. This highly relistic view - veduta essata - of Rome’s Arch of Titus is nearly identical to that shown as No. 7 - L’arco di Tito Vista dal Foro Romano - in Andrea Burici Vici’s Giovanni Ghisolfi - Un Pittor Milanese di Rovine Romanae. That work, unlike ours, is signed by the artist, to the reverse. It was, of course, common practice for painters to fashion multiple copies of their best work. Note Ghisolfi’s signature spiralling, floraform carved decoration above the arch, similar to our previous painting. For more about Ghisolfi, please see our description of Philosophers Conversing Amongst Ruins.
Italian School, unattributed 17th, early 18th century Figures Among a Pyramid and Two Ruined Temples 79 x 70cm., oil on canvas Every picture brings with it surprises and questions. With any luck, and application of sufficient diligence, some mysteries may be put to rest, the unexpected eventually understood. When we came across this idiosyncratic painting, obviously mis-attibuted to Panini, we were taken both by its unusual and inventive handling of ruins – for example, we’ve not before seen a pyramid quite like that rendered here – and by the considerable skill of its execution – something we require of all the pictures we offer. Interestingly, perplexingly, this picture stood our expectations on end; and, after considerable attention, is a greater mystery today than when we first saw it. We guessed, correctly it turned out, that the painting included a significant portion of sky that had been added on long ago, perhaps so that its dimensions accorded with another picture, or with some architectural constraint. And, simple enough, this not very skillfully realized addition was removed, and the picture much improved. Light cleaning revealed two puzzling, overpainted foreground areas, in proximity to the small figures; and we held our breath instructing our conservator to dig a bit more deeply. This work revealed what came to be known as the “giant figures” now visible – a man and a woman painted both underneath and on top of adjacent smaller figures. It may be that the giant figures, which seem over-scaled, were added with the additional portion of sky, perhaps in relation to another picture. It may be that there were two rounds of re-working - the original picture; followed by the two large figures; followed by new small figures. Other theories are afoot, as well. This uncertain history makes problematic the answer to our leading question – Who painted this picture? Yet, with respect to the original canvas, there are a couple of affinities. Details of the ably rendered line
of fluted Doric columns1 to the picture’s right are similar to columns appearing in painting by Pierre Patel (1605-1676), a French painter of Italian scenes. The bas-relief 2 to the base of the pyramid, and partial arch 3 springing from the wall at the end of the column row also seems related to certain Patel works. Intriguingly, it appears that more of this arch may be present beneath the paint layer of the sky. 1 2 3
See Italianate Landscapes, Private. See Landscape with Christ and Centurions, Hamburg. See Landscape with Classical Ruins, Fitzwilliam.
Monogrammist GAE Northern Italian, 17th Century Alexander at the Tomb of Achilles 139.4 x 133.4 cm., oil on canvas This large, narratively and pictorially ambitious, 17th century, northern Italian capriccio pictures Alexander the Great at the tomb of Achilles. It’s a sprawling, complex, scene; enigmatic, puzzling, unlikely, even as it recounts one of the best-known and oft told tales of the antique world. Achilles, he of the famously vulnerable heel, Greek hero of the Trojan War, star of Homer’s Iliad, was, said Alexander, his forebear, on his Mother’s side. (On his Father’s side, Alexander claimed Hercules an ancestor. Being descended from myth proved a lot to live up to, though the young man did his best). Plutarch, writing 350 years after the fact, in Life of Alexander, describes the young King’s visit to his relative’s Trojan tomb: “Alexander and his companions poured libations to the heroes, anointed the grave marker of Achilles, ran a race naked as is the custom, and then placed a wreath on the marker.” More than fifteen centuries after Plutarch, this painting tells a tale more complex. A helmeted Alexander stands high on a ruined architectural fragment, while above him his men, opening the hero’s sarcophagus, offer up Achilles armor, including his famous bronze-headed spear and shield sporting the terrifying image of Medusa. Below, two others hold up the ancient warrior’s red robe. To the right of the central action, an antique bronze group of the three Fates appears to be discussing the goings-on. Below this, figures on a ruined stone frieze are rendered nearly as lifelike as their warm-blooded counterparts. In the middle distance, the remains of a temple fashioned from black stone contrasts with the light hues of ruins in the foreground. The entire scene is framed, on both sides, by the jagged, violently broken, tree trunks and limbs, of the sort often associated with the Neapolitan master Salvator Rosa. The meaning in all this metaphor seems at once abundant and veiled. In addition to the pictorial mysteries, there are other compelling questions, especially the identity of the artist, and date of this painting.
Historian David Marshall attributes this picture to the Monogrammist GAE – a 17th century, northern Italian ruins painter. Marshall’s 1996 article in Burlington Magazine – “Giovanni Ghisolfi or the ‘Monogrammist GAE’ at Stourhead?” –concerns twenty-two stylistically-related paintings, ten featuring variations of a difficult to decipher set of initials – the artist’s monogram. (Our picture, without the GAE initials, but including some intriguing marks discussed later, came to light, and was identified by Marshall, after the Burlington piece.) Marshall suggests two possibilities for this group of similar pictures – that they are the work of the young, Milanese artist Giovani Ghisolfi (please see our earlier discussion of this painter), prior to his arrival in and acculturation to Rome, after 1650; or that they are works of another, likely northern Italian, probably late 17th century, ruins painter, influenced (somehow) by the work of Ghisolfi’s Roman maturity. The evidence runs both directions. Marshall mentions the picture’s flora which, he writes “is of a wild, Rosa-esque type which Rosa himself was developing only in the 1640’s.” Interestingly, our picture’s foliage is considerably more “wild”, more “Rosa-esque”, that that in any of the article’s illustrated paintings. Perhaps there’s a clue here. Also, as Marshall points out, “no securely attributed work by Ghisolfi bears the GAE monogram.” If the author and date of this ‘Alexander at the Tomb of Achilles’ remains obscure, we can be certain that it is among the earliest paintings of the subject, one pursued, along very similar lines, by the greatest architectural ruin painters of the 18th century – Gian Paolo Panini, Niccolo Servandoni, Antonio Joli, and Hubert Robert, among others. Works given to the Monogrammist GAE are in the collection of Stourhead House, Wiltshire, England: Nieborov Palace, Poland; and National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
Another clue may reside in a group of enigmatic, apparently original marks we’ve recently discovered, located in the dark area beneath the swags at the sarcophagus’ base. At first glance, these appear to be related to characters from the Greek alphabet – an epsilon turned on its side, with a dot; a slightly rotated theta; and something similar to upsilon. The last mark, though – an apparent monogram formed from an A and serifed W, followed by a dot – is both decidedly unGreek (and un-Italian! – that language is without a ‘w’).
Gennaro Greco “Il Mascacotta” Naples 1663 - 1714 Nola Figures Amongst Classical Ruins with Ships in Stormy Waters Beyond 50 x 76 cm., oil on canvas “Gennaro’s paintings invented a variety of ruined Architecture and other magnificent constructions and made superb underground places and imaginary prisons with horrible appearances,“ writes Bernardo de Domenici in his 1743 Vite de pittore, scultori, ed architetti napoletani. Greco was highly esteemed in his lifetime. De Domenici titles a chapter “Notizie de Gennaro Greco ...”, with the painter’s name followed, in much smaller type, by a number of apparently lesser artists, including Leonardo Coccorante, whose star burns brightly today. When a child, Greco’s face was horribly disfigured in a fire; and for the rest of his life he was called Il Mascacotta - literally “he of the cooked face”. His biographer, however, notes several compensations. The apparently prosperous Greco had three young, beautiful wives, and a multitude of sons, including one, Vincenza, who became a painter. A student of Andrea Pozzo’s 1693 treatise on architectural perspective - Perspectiva pictorum et architectorum - Greco’s earliest work involved painting ornament, temporary stages for religious celebrations, as well as perspectival frameworks for other artists’ figural projects. Greco’s mature work, of which the example here is characteristic, focuses on very carefully rendered views of imaginary ruins - vedute ideate - often set by a bay with highly detailed ships and other structures beyond. With the present picture, note the skillful manner in which the ruins are made lighter and lower contrast, as they recede into the distance enhancing the picture’s depth. Completing the effect are the distant fort, and port structures, painted in purply blues, emphasizing their distance from the foreground. Note, as well, the vigorous, swirling rendering of the ships and waves on which they are tossed, typical expressions of motion in late Baroque painting. In 1714, while at work on the vault of a country house chapel in Nola, near Naples, Greco fell from high scaffolding to his death. Greco’s paintings are included in the collections of the Castle Sforzesco in Milan, Musee des Beaux Arts in Rouen, and Kronberg Castle, Denmark.
Leonardo Coccorante “Il Giordano di Prospettiva” Naples 1680 - 1750 Architectural Capriccio with Figures and Statue of Hercules 102.5 x 154 cm., oil on canvas Coccorante was among the most extrravagantly talented of the circle of Luca Giordano (1634 - 1705), Neapolitan master of swirling, overheated, late Baroque painting. Many Italian painters of the periood, like sports figures today, possessed nicknames. For Giordano, this was Luca, fa’ presto - literally, “Luca, make it faster” - his father’s exhortation to work more quickly; and the son became famous for high-speed brushwork. Called Il Giordano di Prospettiva (The Giordano of Perspective), Coccorante, according to a 1742 biography, followed Fa’ Presto’s example, painting highly inventive views of imaginary ruins, occasionally at the rate of two per day! Interestingly, for a painter of such celerity, Coccorante first learned his craft from an artist with all the time in the world. Angelo Maria Costa (1670-1721), an accomplished Sicilian painter of ruins, found himself in a Neapolitan prison, awaiting execution for burglary, when he and Coccorante, a jailer’s assistant, first met. An art loving official intervened to spare Costa, who seems to have shared much with his young protege. There are multiple formal and compositional similarites in the works of the two artists. From 1737 - 1739, Coccorante worked in the court of Charles VII of Naples, and his projects included the decoration of the royal palace on the occasion of the betrothal of Charles III of Spain, King of the Two Sicilies, and Marie - Amelia of Saxony. The artist’s pictures are distinctive, often featuring ruins set by a bay, bathed in the slightly sinister light of either the full moon or very late twilight. His singular figures contribute to the effect, and are often caught in acts of robbery or assault, or in the aftermath of mayhem and murder. It may be that Coccorante learned of more than painting while a jailor’s assistant. This large, highly atmospheric capriccio - veduta ideata - featuring ancient classical ruins and a statue of Hercules battling a mythological beast, while local denizens pursue their slightly dissolute-seeming business, all swathed in an eerie twilight, is fully characteristic of Coccorante’s mature work, and may be dated to the first part of the 18th century. Coccorante’s paintings are in the collections of the Louvre, Museum of Grenoble, and Lowe Art Museum in Florida.
Leonardo Coccorante “Il Giordano di Prospettiva” Naples 1680 - 1750 Pair of Architectural Capricci with Figures and Ruins by the Sea 72 x 48 cm. each, oil on canvas A very carefully, even exquisitely, rendered pair of views of architectural ruins, bathed in an eerie light, with literally shadowy figures going about their equally shrouded business. These accomplished, lovely pictures exhibit Coccorante’s mastery of the portrayal of warm twilight raking across ancient stone surfaces, architectural details rendered with precision, the whole set off by cool, billowing clouds beyond. For more about Leonardo Coccorante, please see the previous entry.
Right - Details of both pictures. See following page for complete images.
Leonardo Coccorante “Il Giordano di Prospettiva” Naples 1680 – 1750 Pair of Architectural Capricci with Figures Before a Sacophagus; and Figures in a Ruined Arcade. Both at 74 x 56 cm., oil on canvas A very highly realized pair of capricci from the first part of the 18th century, including a level of architectural and other detail – note the rendering of the sarcophagus and adjacent flora – and spatial complexity not always present in this artist’s pictures. These are fully characteristic paintings, however, featuring Coccorante’s dominating perspectival organization, eerily distinctive very late afternoon daylighting (rendering the ruins in pronounced patterns of light and dark); billowing, smoke-like clouds; and yellow-orange and grey stonework. These pictures are unusually heavily populated, the figures either going about, spectating, or wandering into some dark business. What (or when), for example, do the pair of figures at the right of the painting with the sarcophagus have rolled up in the apparently heavy bundle they are dragging along? For more about Leonardo Coccorante, please see pour description of Architectural Capriccio with Figures and Statues of Hercules.
Right - Details of both pictures. See following page for complete images.
Pietro Paltronieri, attributed “Il Mirandolese dalle Prospettive” Mirandola 1673 - 1741Bologna Three Capricci with Figures Among Classical Ruins one - 147.3 x 155.6 cm.; another - 146.1 x 158.8 cm.; another - 143.5 x 158.8 cm.; oil on canvas Called Il Mirandolese dalle prospettive (the Mirandolese of the perspectives), Paltronieri “was the Viviano (Codazzi) of the later age (the first part of the 18th century)”, writes Luigi Lanzi in his 1828 The History of Painting in Italy. The painter was sufficiently famous in his own time to be included with luminary artists Canaletto, Marco and Sebastiano Ricci, and Cimaroli, in a remarkable 1726 project involving each artist painting an imaginary, allegorical tomb for England’s Duke of Richmond, celebrating a recent triumph of the Whig Party. Born in Mirandola, 50 kilometers north of Bologna, the 17th century birthplace of Italian quadratura (architecturally illusioinistic) painting, Paltronieri’s perspectivally-based work is rooted in this tradition. Unlike other painters, whose views focus solely on classicism, Paltronieri’s subject matter is wider ranging, often including gothic churches, construction sites, vernacular houses and apartments, fountains and wells - the scenography of the everyday. Paltronieri often worked at a large scale, on elaborately shaped canvases, and with multiple pictures forming a single suite of pictures. The effects can be highly decorative. The large size and scale of these three capricci, their decorative effect as well as subject matter and treatment - classical and other ancient buildings, in dramatic perspective, silhouetted against a brilliant blue, cloudbedecked sky, townfolks going about their everyday business - is characteristic of the artist’s oeuvre. Paltronieri’s work is represented in the collections of the Royal Institue of British Architects, Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden, and Nelson-Atkins Museum.
See the following page for images of two companion pictures.
Gian Paolo Panini Piacenza 1692 - 1765 Rome Figures Conversing Among Roman Ruins 72 x 79.5 cm., oil on canvas When we think of 18th century Italian architectural painting, we think first of Gian Paolo Panini, the pre-eminent, hugely influential, prolific, and most successful painter of Roman views, both real - vedute essate - and imaginary - vedute ideate. His work was was the first to blur the line between the two types of views, often picturing real buildings and monuments in imaginary settings, and to very great picturesque effect. One especially abundant picture, a favorite of ours, features the Arch of Titus, Pyramid of Caius Cestius, Temple of Vesta (in Tivoli!), Pantheon, and Lateran Obelisk; though these landmarks, in reality, are nowhere near each other or, in one case, even in the same city! As unlikely as this group is, the picture provides a powerful, memorable view of Roman antiquity. Born about 1692 in Piacenza, Panini was perhaps trained in Bologna by one of the Galli Bibiena, a family famous for exuberant quadratura (architecturally illusionistic) stage design. By 1711 the young painter reached Rome, where he studied figure painting with Benedetto Luti. Panini’s career rapidly accelerated. In addition to architectural views, very popular with Grand Tourists, he painted vedute of festivals, ceremonies, and the visits to Rome of a range of notable figures. By 1719, Panini was accorded membership in the Congregaziione dei Virtuosi al Pantheon and Accademie di San Lucia. Among his famous clients was the Pope. During this period, he assembled a large, talented workshop, which saw to the precise carrying out of Panini’s painting designs. Unlike other vedutistas, Panini painted his own figures. Said to be his favorite assistant was the Frenchman Hubert Robert, whose later successes with pre-Romantic architectural views, in both Rome and Paris, built directly on his time with Panini. Our painting is an absolutely characteristic, mature work, picturing an imaginary grouping of ruins of the Temple of Vespasian, Trajan’s Column, and the Arch of Janus. This uncatalogued view may be compared with numbers 430 and 431 in Ferdinando Arisi’s 1986 Gian Paolo Panini e i facti della Roman del ‘700. The latter picture, Predica di Un Apostolo, is especially similar, though it includes an additional architectural element, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius. The figures in our painting may be compared with number 433, Predica di Una Sibilla, a picture signed by Panini. Panini’s paintings are included in the collections of the Hermitage, Louvre, and Prado.
Gian Paolo Panini Piacenza 1692 - 1765 Rome View of Classical Ruins 133.5 x 112 cm., oil on canvas An unusual, early, imaginary architectural view by the master of 18th century Roman vedute. Unlike later work, the pictured ruins are related to, but not identical with, well-known Roman monuments. For example, the temple just beyond the arch - with its dome and triangular, pedimented roof supported on columns - suggests the Pantheon, though is hardly a faithful representation. Other elements, including the deftly-handled jumble of ruined architectural elements in the foreground, resting in a pool of water, are among the painter’s signature devices. With its strong upper right to lower left perspectitvalarrangement, the picture may be compared with numbers 114, 262, and others in Ferdinando Arisi’s Gian Paolo Panini e i facti della Roman del ‘700. Of a nearly identical painting sold several years ago, both Arisi and historian Giancarlo Sestieri suggested the work was from early in Panini’s career, perhaps ca. 1715, after his arrival in Rome in 1711. Of course, the most striking feature of this picture (as well as its near twin) is that it is unpopulated. Sestieri suggests these canvases may be incomplete, an intriguing possibility. For more about Gian Paolo Panini, please see the previous entry.
Hubert Robert “Robert des Ruines” Paris 1733 - 1808 Figures Before a Round Temple 46 x 38 cm., oil on canvas This catalogue of Italian Architectural Paintings concludes with a French painter whose well-known work never forgot the lessons learned in Rome as a young man. Born in Paris, Hubert Robert received a Classical education, before setting out for Rome in 1754, arriving in the company of the French ambassador. Over the next dozen years he befriended Piranesi, was Gian Paolo Panini’s favorite workshop assistant, and became close with countryman Jean-Honore Fragonard - the two spent time together drawing. Robert’s time with Panini was especially influential, and Robert des Ruines’ (a nickname given him by Diderot) views of fantastical architectural ruins and landscapes form the heart of his oeuvre. Returning to Paris in 1765, his work was an immediate success. Beginning in 1767, Robert regularly exhibited his paintings at the prestigious Salon de Paris. Under Louis XVI he was made Keeper of the King’s Pictures and given enviable lodgings in the Louvre, where he lived until 1802. The downside of his royal association was a period of imprisonment during the French Revolution. His time in the lock-up seems not to have been too difficult, though - he continued to draw and paint. This small canvas - a highly atmospheric, imaginary view of a Roman temple (doubtlessly inspired by similar monuments in the Eternal City), with colorfully, vigorously rendered figures in the foreground - is characteristic of Robert’s work. The manner in which the lighter - hued temple is framed, on both sides, by architectural elements harkens back to Panini. Note, too, the Italian umbrella pine and cypress trees, characteristic of Rome. This picture has been examine by Joseph Baillio of the Wildenstein Institute in Paris, and will be included in his forthcoming catalog raisonee of Hubert Robert. Robert’s work is represented in the collections of the Hermitage, Louvre, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
This Page: Detail, Pietro Paltronieri, Capriccio with Figures Among Ruins Rear Cover: Leonardo Coccorante Architectural Capriccio with Figures and Ruins by the Sea