Lot 311
  • 311

Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
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  • Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli
  • Naples, a view of the Riviera di Chiaia
  • oil on canvas
  • 71,5 x 172 cm


Lord Spencer Stanley Chichester (1775-1819), Fisherwick Park, Litchfield;
John Robins, Hampshire, by 1805;
His sale, Hampshire, 28 June 1805, lot 76 (as "G. dagli Occhialli");
With Henry Graves & Co., Pall Mall, London, no. 1094;
Acquired by Wentworth Blacket Beaumont (1829-1907) from the above for £40, in October 1871;
With Beddington and Blackman Ltd., London;
From whom acquired in 2004. 


C. Beddington, "Exhibition review:  Gaspare Vanvitelli", in Apollo, CLVII, no. 495, May 2003, p. 53.


The following condition report has been provided by Simon Parkes of Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc. 502 East 74th St. New York, NY 212-734-3920, simonparkes@msn.com, an independent restorer who is not an employee of Sotheby's. This work is in lovely condition. The canvas has a glue lining. The work is clean and retouched very accurately and sparingly. There are a few spots of retouching in the upper left and to the left of the elaborate fountain on the left. There are a very few retouches within the water, landscape and architecture. These are carefully applied. There is a concentration in the pale colors of the roadway in the foreground, particularly in the center and in the lower left. There may be a couple of small structural damages or breaks in the canvas, one in the red carriage in the center left and another in the woman carrying water directly behind the same carriage. For a work of this scale and period, the lack of abrasion and the clarity of the details is quite impressive.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

After training in his native Amersfoort, Gaspar Van Wittel, whose name was italianised to Vanvitelli, spent most of his life in and around Rome after 1675, save for a few trips to the North of Italy, Venice and Naples. He is rightfully considered one of the fathers of the Italian veduta, or panoramic views based on real places. His combination of faithful description of his environs, in part based on the Northern tradition, with anecdotal quotidian events, was hugely successful, partly because of his interest in the the effects of light, but also because he portrayed the places around him truthfully and without the reverence for the antique which was a hallmark of, for example, Flemish artists in Rome in the sixteenth century. Religious sites and antique ruins were often replaced by views never before depicted which showed the reality of modern Rome; everyday places or ancient sites which were still in use, such as the Riviera di Chiaia, seen here, or the Castel Sant'Angelo, in Rome (see lot 324), provided the perfect setting.

This remarkable and large canvas depicting the bay of Naples was painted when Vanvitelli was at the peak of his career.  The Riviera di Chiaia was opened in 1697 by Luis Francisco de la Cerda y Aragón, Duke of Medinaceli and originally ran immediately alongside the shore of the Gulf of Naples in the quartiere of Chiaia. Lined with elegant homes, beautiful churches and fountains, the Riviera would have provided an ideal setting for tourists to enjoy a stroll and take in views of the bay.

For this composition the artist has chosen a viewpoint shortly after the church of San Leonardo, where the Riviera di Chiaia diverges from the Strada di Pozzuoli.1  In the foreground is an elaborate Baroque fountain, decorated with sculptures and a scrolled plaque on its pediment bears an inscription Carolus II Dei Gratia Rex.  The fountain was one of a number that once punctuated the road along the waterfront from Castel dell’Ovo to Posillipo, built in the 1690s on the instruction of Don Luis de la Cerda.2 Beyond the fountain, to the right, is an old tower, perhaps the Torretta di Chiaia or the Torretta di Piedigrotta, once intended as a fortification against invasion by the Turks.3  The old defenses had been built in 1564, though by the time of this painting, the construction had been converted into a “folly” dwelling.  Beyond the Torretta, the domed roof and tall bell tower of the church of Santa Maria di Piedigrotta are visible further down the strada di Pozzuoli.  In the distance, across the bay, is the quartiere of Mergellina, its shore lined with fishermen’s cottages and above it rises Posillipo on the crest of the hill. 

The composition is known in seven versions which date between 1710 and 1722, each varying slightly in its chosen viewpoint and in the grouping of figures and carriages.4 Surprisingly, no preparatory drawing is extant.  The earliest version, in a private collection, is signed and dated: Gas. Van Witel 1710 and like the present painting shows the fountain in its entirety.  The present version, however, is depicted from very slightly further south.  This minor shift allows a view of the façade of the building at right which perhaps depicts the palazzo built by Bartolomeo d’Aquino in 1640.  The palazzo was known for its opulent interiors and its inclusions permitted the artist to incorporate a charming vignette in the lower left corner: an elegant company stepping from a gilded carriage toward the palazzo’s marble columned entrance while their arrival is overseen by a gentleman peering from the balcony above.  

1.  G. Briganti, under Literature, p. 270.
2.  Ibid., p. 270-271.
3.  Ibid., p. 270.
4.  Ibid., p. 271-272, cat. nos. 375-379, reproduced.