T he below works reflect the collecting of the English Grand Tourists of the 18th century and the English country house taste. This impressive selection of 18th-century view paintings includes an exquisite view of London from the Thames, showing St Paul's Cathedral and the spires of the Wren churches by the Italian painter Antonio Joli, as well as a view from Richmond, looking towards Twickenham by Canaletto's pupil William Marlow. Of exceptional beauty and refinement is a pair of Mediterranean coastal scenes showing contrasting times of day by the Frenchman Claude-Joseph Vernet, that was commissioned in Paris in 1764 by the English Grand Tourist George Thornhill, on his return from Italy, and remarkably has remained within the family's ownership ever since.
Joli’s depictions of iconic sites from Rome are precisely the type of scenes that English travelers on the Grand Tour would commission to decorate their country homes, and indeed the matching English frames indicate this is likely the case for this pair. Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl Burlington, purchased similar Roman views from Joli’s contemporaries during his tours of 1714-15 and 1719. The present pair comes from Hartham Park in Wiltshire, home of Sir John Dickson-Poynder, 6th Baronet, Baron Islington, and Governor-General of New Zealand from 1910-12.
Villa Pisani, visible in the distance of this view, was built between 1735 and 1740 based on designs by the Paduan Girolamo Frigimelica (for the gardens) and the architect Francesco Maria Preti (for much of the building itself). The rooms inside the villa were frescoed by a number of the leading painters of the day, including Jacopo Amigoni, Jacopo Guarana, Sebastiano Ricci, Giuseppe Zais and Giambattista Tiepolo (whose Glory of the Pisani Family, executed in 1761-62, is one of the artist's last works in Italy, before his departure for Madrid).
This beautiful view of St Paul's Cathedral, painted by Joli in the 1740 or 1750s, shows the newly restored and rebuilt London, with its breathtaking new cathedral and unparalleled skyline of Wren churches. The artist has deliberately taken a high viewpoint, thus being able to include a formidable amount of topographical detail. Clustered around St Paul's, completed in 1710, are a myriad church towers, and further to the right the Monument is clearly visible, followed on the right by the Tower of London. To the right of the composition is Old London Bridge, by the date of this picture already over six hundred years old, and providing a link with London before the Great Fire.
Marlow is best known for his topographical views of London and landscapes of Rome, Florence and Venice. In addition to his peregrinations through Italy, Marlow traveled extensively through England and eventually settled in Twickenham. In the 1750s Marlow was a pupil of the foremost native topographical painter of his day, Samuel Scott. His style owes a great deal to that of his master, and also to Canaletto, whose works he would have known. Painted very much in Scott's manner, the picture most probably dates from the mid-1770s when Marlow was living in Twickenham, in the house previously occupied by Scott.
This beautiful pair of coastal scenes, depicting contrasting times of day, was commissioned from Claude-Joseph Vernet, the leading French marine painter of the 18th century, in Paris on 17 May 1764 by George Thornhill (1738–1827) of Diddington. Remarkably the paintings have remained in the family ever since and appear here on the market for the first time since they were painted some 250 years ago.George Thornhill accompanied his elder brother Thomas Thornhill (1735–1800) of Fixby on the Grand Tour in around 1761-64 and commissioned the paintings in Paris, presumably on his return home to England.
Jan Frans van Bloemen was the leading painter of views of the Roman campagna during the late 17th and first half of the 18th century. Born in Antwerp, he traveled to Rome with his brother Pieter van Bloemen and is recorded there by 1688. He would remain in Rome for the remainder his life, except for a few trips to Naples, Sicily and Malta, and enjoyed the patronage of leading Roman families, including the Doria, Pallavicini, Rospigliosi and Corsini, as well as Isabella Farnese, Queen of Spain, and the Pope.