PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF J.E. SAFRA
Anonymous sale, London, Christie's, 20 July 1934, lot 56 (as Marieschi), for 10 guineas, to Agnew;
With Thos. Agnew and Sons, Ltd., London, from 1934–45;
From whom acquired by Francis Wells in 1945;
By whom bequeathed to a private collector;
By whom anonymously sold ('Property of a Gentleman of Title'), London, Christie's, 9 July 1993, lot 93, reproduced on the front cover (as Vanvitelli);
Where acquired by the present collector.
G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel e l’origine della veduta settecentesca, Rome 1966, p. 185, cat. no. 45, reproduced;
G. Briganti, in Gaspar van Wittel, L. Laureati and L. Trezzani (eds), Milan 1996, p. 163, cat. no. 85, reproduced p. 164, fig. 85;
L. Trezzani, 'Gaspare Vanvitelli, il pittore di Roma moderna,' in F. Benzi et al., Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origini del vedutismo, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2002, p. 35, reproduced;
Christie's Review of the Season 1993, pp. 24 and 25, reproduced in colour.
The painting shows the church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro at the intersection between the road linking the Colosseum with Porta Maggiore and that linking Santa Maria Maggiore to San Giovanni. The artist has chosen a raised viewpoint above the crossroads in a vineyard, the Vigna Ciccolini. In the foreground people stroll in the vineyard’s terrace garden which, as Giuliano Briganti asserts, is perhaps the only topographical detail derived from Vanvitelli’s imagination.1 The garden is not apparent in subsequent engravings by Giuseppe Vasi, executed just a few years after this painting, nor does it appear in maps of the area by Giovanni Battista Falda. Besides the delightful fictitious garden, Vanvitelli reproduces the topography in characteristically accurate detail. In the background is San Giovanni in Laterano, today enveloped by its urban environs, but then surrounded by small vineyards, vegetable plots and walled gardens, punctuated with trees.
Then, much like today, the city effortlessly reconciles its magnificent modern edifices with looming antique ruins, such as the Claudian Aqueduct, whose arches are visible at right, and the obelisk in Piazza di San Giovanni. This subdued and perhaps more intimate corner of the city would likely have been painted for a Roman patron, and Laura Laureati and Laura Trezzani have tentatively proposed it may even have been commissioned by Pope Clement XI Albani.2 The church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro was restored by Carlo Fontana in 1703 on the orders of Clement XI and the latter’s papal arms are clearly visible on the building’s façade.3 The pope conceded the church to the Syrian monks of Saint Anthony Abbot in 1707, for whom he built the small monastery adjoining it to the right. Giuliano Briganti dated the painting to the first decade of the eighteenth century, though noted it could not have been executed any earlier than 1707, given the inclusion of the monastery erected that year.
1. See Briganti 1966, under Literature.
2. See Briganti, Milan 1996, under Literature.
3. See A. Blunt, Guide to Baroque Rome, London 1982, p. 77.
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