This panoramic view, depicting Rome from the gardens of the villa on Monte Mario, the city lining the banks of the Tiber with the Alban hills beyond, would have been familiar to many 18th century visitors to the Eternal City as they followed the Via Trionfale onto the eastern slopes of Monte Mario. Several of the monuments are identifiable, with the Ponte Milvio on the left, and S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini and the Castel Sant'Angelo on the right. Nearer us, at the extreme right, is the Villa Madama which was designed by Raphael for the Cardinal Giuliano de' Medici (future Pope Clement VII). As such this is one of only a handful of topographical landscapes that van Bloemen painted; although he made numerous plein air pen and ink drawings of Rome and its environs, the vast majority of his painted oeuvre used these sketches merely as a starting point, with the finished product being a view created often in its entirety from the artist's imagination.
There is another version of the composition, of similar dimensions, that was formerly in the collection of Delegazione Montedison, Rome and that sold Milan, Sotheby's, 8 June 1994, lot 268. The differences between the two canvases lie mostly in the staffage which, in all but the detail of the woman climbing the path towards Villa Madama, holding a bundle on her head, is entirely different. One or other of the versions must have been known to Richard Wilson who painted a remarkably similar view of Rome for William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, in 1753, which repeats such incidental details as the triangular highlight on the corner of Villa Madama.1 The ex-Montedison version was dated by Busiri Vici to circa 17352 and by Coekelsberghs, more broadly, to the 1730s.3 Dr Edgar Peters Bowron has proposed a similar date of execution for the present work, circa 1730-35.
1. See W.G. Constable, Richard Wilson, London 1953, pp. 218-9, reproduced plate 107a.
2. A. Busiri Vici, Jan Frans van Bloemen: Orrizonte e l'origine del paesaggio romano Settecentesco, Rome 1974, no. 211, reproduced figs. 10, 33, 34, 190.
3. D. Coeckelsberghs, 'Les Peintres belges à Rome de 1700 à 1830', in Etudes d'histoire de l'art, Brussels and Rome 1976, p. 48.
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