Lot 93
  • 93

Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli
  • Messina, a panoramic view of the city towards the sea from the Colle del Tirone
  • oil on canvas
  • 27 1/8  by 54 7/8  in.; 69 by 139.6 cm.


Giorgio Balella, Rome;
With Colnaghi, London;
With Herner Wengraf, London;
Anonymous sale, Milan, Finarte, 12 December 1973, lot 71;
With Derek Johns, London;
From whom acquired by the present collector in May 1997.


Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Art; Toledo, Toledo Museum of Art; Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 7 October 1971 - 20 March 1972, Dutch Masterpieces from the Eighteenth Century: Painting and Drawings from 1700-1800, no. 105.


G. Briganti, Gaspar Vanvitelli e l'origine della veduta settecentesca, Venice 1966, p. 254, cat. no. 211, reproduced;
E.R. Mandle (ed.), Dutch Masterpieces from the Eighteenth Century, exhibition catalogue, Minneapolis 1971, p. 119, cat. no. 105, reproduced fig. 6;
L. Salerno, I pittori di vedute in Italia (1580-1830), Rome 1991, p. 101, cat. no. 66 (reproduced in color but in reverse);
V. Consolo, Vedute dello stretto di Messina, Palermo 1993, pp. 146-47, reproduced fig. 10;
G. Briganti (L. Laureati and L. Trezzani eds), Gaspar Van Wittel, Milan 1996, p. 279, cat. no. 402, reproduced in color p. 280, fig. 402;
L. Trezzani in "Gaspare Vanvitelli, il 'pittore di Roma moderna,'" in L. Laureati and L. Trezzani (eds), Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origini del vedutismo, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2002, p. 42, reproduced p. 41.

Catalogue Note

This splendid and rare view of the Sicilian city of Messina, painted by Vanvitelli between 1710 and 1720, serves as an historical document which maps out the city before the destruction wrought by the earthquakes of 1783 and 1908. Of the seven known views of Messina by Vanvitelli, the present work is the most impressive, both for its quality and in its subtle use of light, as the shade of the foreground makes way to the warm glow of the city and the glistening sea in the distance. Several of Messina's landmarks can be clearly made out: the busy port, with its many sails, dominated by the square turret of the lighthouse on the thin San Ranieri peninsula; to the right the castle of San Salvatore; almost at the very center of the painting is the bell tower of the cathedral which was to partially crumble in 1783; in the right foreground we find the citadel, built by the Spanish between 1679 and 1681. On the horizon the mountains of the Italian mainland can be seen, with the city of Reggio Calabria at the far right.

At the time of Giuliano Briganti's monograph of 1966 (see Literature), the present painting was the only known view of Sicily by the artist and the only clue that he had ever traveled south of Naples. No documentary evidence has since emerged of his having done so, but the careful topographical details included, the fact that each of the seven known views differs, and that the city is depicted from five different sites, suggests that we can safely assume he did indeed visit Sicily. A large view of the city, which includes the beach of Santa Maria della Grotta is in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Toulon, is monogrammed and dated 1712.1 Stylistically the work fits well with other paintings from this date and gives us a reliable date for his approximate arrival there. The latest date known of any of the views of the city, 1720, appears in a painting in a private collection in Prague.2

1. See Briganti, 1996, p. 280, cat. no. 405, reproduced.
2. Ibid., pp. 279-80, cat. no. 404.