Vanvitelli's sweeping view of the Ripa Grande in Rome, an early work by the artist, is a beautifully-rendered depiction of the Eternal City's main river port, giving today's viewers a glimpse into daily life at the end of the 17th century. The right side of the painting shows the Via Marmorata, along which marble from the quarries at Carrara was transported, while on the opposite bank are the main ramps of the port, near the Customs House, with the tower of the church of the Santa Maria in Torre behind it. Beyond this are also the Pamphilij palazzina
and the church of Santa Maria in Capella, the only building in this group that remains today. Though seen far in the distance, the Capitol serves as the centerpoint of the composition.
After training in his native Amersfoort, Gaspar Van Wittel, better known by his Italian sobriquet 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 vedute
, or panoramic view based on a real place. His combination of faithful description of his environs, in part based on the Northern tradition, with anecdotal quotidian events, was hugely successful. 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 Ripa Grande, seen here, provided the perfect setting. Vanvitelli's inimitable sense of the warm Italian sunlight added a further allure and grand romanticism to these scenes of daily life.
There are two other versions of this composition in oil recorded, though unlike the present painting neither of them are signed or dated. The first, in the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, is slightly smaller and has different staffage.1
The second, in a private collection, Rome, is larger and composed in a slightly taller format; it not only has different staffage but also includes a large tree on the right side in the foreground.2
Vanvitelli also painted a version in tempera on parchment which is in the Colonna Collection, Rome.3
The present painting, signed and dated 1690
, was once accompanied by a pendant view of The River Tiber at the Porto della Legna, Rome
, now in a private collection, London (fig. 1).4
The pair remained together in the Masclary collection, but the Porto della Legna
appeared on the London art market on its own in 1989.
1. See Briganti 1996 under Literature, p. 200, cat. no. 191, reproduced p. 201.
2. Ibid., p. 200, cat. no. 193, reproduced p. 201.
3. Ibid., p. 200, cat. no. 192.
4. Ibid., p. 176, cat. no. 121, reproduced p. 177.