Born in Modena, Joli was a painter of vedute and capricci who travelled to Rome as a young man, where he studied the works of Gaspar van Wittel and Giovanni Paolo Panini, under whom he almost certainly trained, establishing himself in the Eternal City by 1718. In 1732, he is first documented in Venice, where he assimilated the style of leading vedutisti, namely Canaletto, Marieschi and Carlevarijs. This early training, followed by sojourns to London and Madrid, served as the foundation to the great success he witnessed in Naples, where he settled in 1755 to serve as Court painter to Charles VII, King of Naples (later Charles III of Spain) and where he received a wealth of commissions from aristocrats passing through the region on their Grand Tour. Stylistically, the present pair dates to about 1760, the height of his career, and closely compares to a group of large city views and landscapes commissioned by Lord John Montague Brudenell, a Grand Tourist and one of Joli’s most important patrons , around the same period.1
In the view of Naples, seen from the North-West, we see the coastline of the picturesque suburb of Chiaia, with Castel Sant' Elmo glowing in the sun on the hill above at left, the Castel dell'Ovo stretching out into the water at right. It is a brilliant, sunny day, with the light gleaming off the water, and the only hint of disquiet in the otherwise calm and peaceful scene filled with boats and figures enjoying the day’s pleasures, is the smoke billowing into the sky out of Mount Vesuvius in the far distance. Such was the popularity and success of this view that Joli repeated it several times, from varying viewpoints, throughout his career, though only very rarely reaching the quality found in the present pair.2
Paestum, known by the Greeks in antiquity as Poseidonia, is immediately recognizable in the pendant by the three well-preserved Doric temples that rise out of the ancient ruins. The view is from the West, looking east toward the Cilento Mountains, with the temple of Athena at left, the two Hera temples at right, and remnants of the city’s famed walls stretching across the center. This ancient metropolis reached its peak in the 6th century BCE, and though it was never entirely forgotten, with the excavation of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eighteenth century came renewed interest in this site, located about 100 miles south of Naples. Joli was one of the first artists to paint views of Paestum, capturing it from a multitude of angles, including from inside the temple structures, indicating he also ventured very close to the ruins themselves, likely executing drawings there in situ as well.3
Dr. Ralph Toledano has seen these two paintings in person and has praised their splendid quality. A copy of his expertise endorsing the attribution for the pair accompanies this lot.
1. See, for example, R. Toledano, Antonio Joli, Turin 2006, p. 270, cat. no. V.V.VI.I; p. 289, cat. no. V.V.XIV; p. 292, cat. no. V.V.X.V.III; p. 390, cat. no. N.XXXVIII.1, among others.
2. Ibid., pp 309-313, cat. nos. N.V.1 to 5
3. Ibid., pp. 390-401, cat. nos. N.XXXVIII.1-N.XLIV.
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