Lot 20
  • 20

Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli
  • Rome, a view of the church of Santi Marcellino e Pietro, from the Vigna Ciccolini, with the Palazzo Laterano, the church of San Giovanni in Laterano, the Ospedale di San Giovanni and ruins of the Claudian Aqueduct beyond
  • oil on canvas
  • 29 1/2 x 52 3/8 inches


E. H. Slater, 158 Marsland Road, Sale, near Manchester;

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, 'Chiarimenti sul Vanvitelli,' in La Critica d'Arte, XXIV, 1940, p. 133;

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 following condition report is provided by Sarah Walden who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Gaspar van Wittel, Vanvitelli. View of the Lateran, Rome. This painting has an old stretcher with a recent wax lining. It is possible that it had once been rolled in the past, as various minute verticals can just be seen under ultra violet light near the upper edge in the sky and near the base edge. Retouching is visible along the edges in the sky and in the upper corners with light retouching over a few worn places at upper centre left and small retouches scattered elsewhere in the sky. The foliage of the tree by the edge at centre right has also been strengthened in places, as have the darks along the base edge with a slightly larger patch of retouching at centre right near the pool with a white peacock perched on it. Other minor strengthening can be found near the base, occasionally by some of the figures and for instance in the shadow on the wall in front of the vineyard on the right. However throughout the entire centre and view of the architecture, with every detail of the delicate effects of light and shade, has remained beautifully intact. This report was not done under laboratory conditions.
"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

This exquisite view captures Rome from a rare viewpoint, never repeated by the artist, and provides a meticulously accurate record of this corner of the city that has transformed in the centuries since the artist's depiction. The Fleming Gaspar van Wittel, known by his Italian sobriquet Vanvitelli, took up the baton left by Claude Lorrain and created a new type of painting, the urban veduta, that would inspire several generations of artists in the years to come, among them Canaletto, Bellotto and Francesco Guardi. On his much favoured panoramic format, this painting presents an idyllic vision of Rome in the late afternoon, at once topographical and Romantic.

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.