PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
a pair, both signed with initials and dated,
the first on an architectural fragment lower centre: I.P.P. 754
the second on the base of the statue of Castor centre left: I.P.P. 1754.
both oil on canvas, in Roman 18th-century carved and gilt wood frames
Giustiniani collection, Rome, until 1822 (according to the 1932 Berlin sale catalogue);
Anonymous sale, Berlin, Ball & Graupe, 10 December 1932 (erroneously as signed and dated 1734);
Dimitri Tziracopoulos, Berlin and Athens(according to the 1973 sale catalogue);
With A. and Cesare Canessa, 1967;
From whom acquired by Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd., London (inv. nos. 36019 & 36022), on 17 February 1967;
By whom sold in October 1967 to Cater Ryder & Co. Ltd., London;
By whom sold anonymously, London, Christie’s, 23 March 1973, lots 53 and 54, for 45,000 and 35,000 gns. respectively to Agnew’s;
With Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd., London (inv. nos. 28699 & 28698), from whom acquired by the father of the present owner.
J. Herbert, Christie’s Review of the Season 1973, New York/London 1973, p. 44;
Antichità Viva, vol. XII, no. 2, 1973, p. 71, reproduced (Quirinal only);
F. Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ’700, Rome 1986, p. 450, cat. nos. 443 and 444, both reproduced (erroneously as in the collection of Cater Ryder & Co. Ltd.), and p. 451, under cat. no. 445 (the former only);
F. Arisi, in Giovanni Paolo Panini 1691-1765, exhibition catalogue, Piacenza, Palazzo Gotico, 15 March – 16 May 1993, p. 43, both reproduced.
Panini was the pre-eminent painter of vedute in Rome during the second quarter of the 18th century until his death in 1765. Though born in Piacenza, where he is thought to have trained with the architectural painter Bibiena, Panini moved to Rome in 1711 and remained there for the rest of his life. He joined the Congregazione dei Virtuosi al Pantheon in 1718, aged seventeen, and shortly afterwards became a member of the Accademia di San Luca, of which he was elected “principe” in 1754; year in which this extraordinary pair of paintings was executed. During the first two decades of the 18th century Panini worked almost exclusively for the Roman nobility; the Patrizi amongst them, for whom he decorated a villa outside Porta Pia; and the Spinola for whom he decorated an apartment in the Quirinale. Panini’s main output, however, consisted primarily of easel paintings in which he accurately depicted the various splendours of ancient and modern Rome. His acceptance into the Académie de France à Rome in 1732 not only attests to the extent of his influence already at that date, but more importantly it marks the beginning of a period in which he was to receive commissions from an increasingly international clientele. From the 1730s royal and aristocratic patrons from France, Spain and England commissioned and acquired works by Panini; amongst them Philip V of Spain, who commissioned a painting from the artist in 1735, and three years later Panini executed a set of five paintings for Marble Hill House in Richmond. Many of his international commissions were not merely topographical reminders of places visited by the tourists on the Grand Tour, but they often assumed historical significance, commemorating important events or visits to Rome on behalf of dignitaries and royal figures. By the mid-18th century Panini was at the head of an extensive workshop which he had set up to meet the ever-increasing demand for his paintings. As an epistolary exchange from 1752 records, Panini only worked on commission by this date and a letter concerning the King of Sardinia’s wish to acquire paintings by the artist records that he barely had the time to meet the demand for commissions he received both from Rome and abroad: “ha appena il tempo di soddisfare alle commissioni che gli vengono date e dai paesi e qui in Roma da molti e dal Signor Cardinal Segretano di Stato specialmente, che lo protegge” (cited by Arisi, see Literature, 1986, p. 215). Panini’s success was largely due to the fact that he differed from other contemporary painters in his picturesque approach to painting these familiar sites. Though topographically accurate, Panini’s views tend to appear more theatrical than the more precise views of other vedutisti such as Bellotto or Vanvitelli, and the importance that he places on the numerous figures that populate his scenes and the unusual viewpoints he adopts serve to underline this more dramatic approach to view painting. Panini’s vedute had a lasting influence on painters of the second half of the 18th and early 19th century. Hubert Robert, who arrived in Rome in 1754 (the same year in which these paintings were executed), went on to propagate Panini’s style not only in Rome but in his native France.
The pairing of the views of St. Peter's Square and Piazza del Quirinale is traditional and indeed similar views hang one above the other in Panini’s Views of Modern Rome, signed and dated 1759, in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (fig. 1; reproduced in colour in Arisi, see Literature, 1993, pp. 118-9, cat. no. 22). Not only are they arguably the two most important squares in Rome but they are also thematically linked: St. Peter's Square is at the centre of the Vatican complex and the Quirinale was the summer residence of the Pope (until 1870).
St. Peter's Square was the square most often painted by vedutisti in Rome. Its impressive scale (it measures a colossal 240 metres in width), the grandeur of its architecture and its position within the Vatican combined to make it the most famous square in Europe. The obelisk, which can still be seen in situ in the centre of the square, was brought to Rome by Caligula in 37 A.D. and was moved by Pope Sixtus V to its current location in the summer of 1586. The two fountains were erected in the 17th century, in 1613 and 1677 respectively. Designs were provided for the Basilica by some of the greatest architects of the Renaissance: Leon Battista Alberti, Bernardo Rossellino, Bramante, Raphael, Giuliano da Sangallo, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and, most famously, Michelangelo. Further modifications were made in the 17th century by Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The square, as it appears in Panini’s painting, had been remodelled following Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s designs in 1656-7 into a perfectly symmetrical space, framed by an elegant double colonnade, itself surmounted by statues based on Bernini’s designs. And yet Panini appears to have made every effort to conceal the symmetry of Bernini’s design by animating his view with figures, cutting architectural features (the building on the left is truncated, leaving us to complete it in our own imagination) and shifting the obelisk just left of centre for greater dramatic and perspectival effect. Panini has modified Bernini’s homogeneous urban space and yet has done so with such subtlety and skill that we are hardly aware that the scene has been manipulated. The same viewpoint was adopted by Panini for another masterpiece, also dating from 1754 but described by Arisi as post-dating the present work, showing Piazza San Pietro with the procession of the French Ambassador, the Duc du Choiseul, today in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin (inv. 2/80; Arisi, op. cit., 1986, pp. 450-1, cat. no. 445, reproduced). Though the latter is populated with more figures, both scenes are shown in the same early afternoon light, the sun streaming in from the south, lengthening the shadows of the buildings. These views had been adapted from Panini’s earlier representation of the subject, a canvas dated 1741, where the viewpoint is lower and shifted to the left (sold, London, Sotheby’s, 25 November 1970, lot 14; reproduced in Arisi, see Literature, 1986, p. 385, cat. no. 308). In all these views Panini typically sacrifices topographical accuracy for greater dramatic and pictorial effect.
The Piazza del Quirinale, viewed here from the East, derives its name from the ancient Temple of Quirinus which used to stand on its site. The Thermae Constantinianae, the last of Rome’s great thermal baths, also stood here once and the two colossal statues of Castor and Pollux reining in their horses (more commonly known as the “Dioscuri”) come from there. The statues are Roman copies after Greek originals of the 5th century B.C. and they used to stand pointing eastwards (towards the spot from which Panini paints his view). Pope Sixtus V restored them in 1589 and moved them to the centre of the square, pointing them towards the Palazzo (as they appear in Panini’s painting). It was not until 1786 that Pope Pius VI re-positioned the statues, with the horses no longer parallel but divergent, in order to erect the obelisk from Augustus’ Mausoleum in the centre of the square (visible still in situ today). A fountain, using the porphyry water basin which formerly stood in the Campo Vaccino, was erected in 1818 by Pope Pius VII and though it is absent from Panini’s painting it still stands in the Piazza today. The Palazzo del Quirinale, begun in the last quarter of the 16th century on the site of the 15th century villa of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa and Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, was used as the Pope’s summer residence. It was adapted and enlarged by a number of architects throughout the 17th century, including Maderno (who designed the porticoed entrance) and Bernini (who erected the loggia and adapted the rounded torrione). In the second half of the 1650s Pietro da Cortona was commissioned to decorate the interior of the Palazzo by Pope Alexander VII. Further changes to the façade were introduced in the first half of the 18th century: two statues by Maini of Justice and Religion were erected on the tympanum of the central gateway in 1739, and in 1734 Pope Clement XII’s Corsini coat-of-arms, held by two trumpeting angels, were erected above. Although the latter, which are still visible today, would have been erected by the time Panini painted this view, he consciously chose to omit them since by 1754 Pope Benedict XIV, a member of the bolognese Lambertini family, was in office (and had been since 1740). The Palazzo del Quirinale remained the papal summer residence for almost three centuries - except during the Napoleonic era (1809-14) - from 1589 to 1870. In that year it was adopted by the ruling Savoy family as their royal residence, and since 1947 it is the seat of the Presidente della Repubblica. In the 1973 catalogue it was suggested that the red and white flag flying on the torrione at the forefront of the Palazzo may indicate that the scene represented is the arrival of the Hungarian Ambassador; an identification not substantiated by any documentary evidence for the year 1754 but an hypothesis which Arisi considered highly plausible.
A number of preparatory drawings relating to individual figures in each painting have survived, most of them from Panini’s sketchbooks held at the British Museum and the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin. The London and Berlin sketchbooks are the most obvious remainder of what must have been an enormous stock of Panini’s figure drawings. The figures for his large compositions often came from previously drawn pattern sheets, and so the drawings were not necessarily developed with a particular picture or composition in mind. Indeed some of the drawn figures appear in more than one painting, showing that the sheets were often re-used: see, for example, the lady in profile in the lower right foreground of the Piazza San Pietro which reappears in the Duc de Choiseul painting in the left middle-ground, a drawing for which is in the British Museum, London, f. 102. Although these two paintings date from the same year, there are other occasions when figures were re-used over twenty years later and this demonstrates Panini’s practice of keeping his sketchbooks to hand in the studio: for example two of the three men holding horses by their reins in the centre of the Piazza del Quirinale reappear in Panini’s earlier painting of the Quirinale (1733), taken from the opposite side, today in the Coffee-House, Palazzo del Quirinale, Rome (Arisi, op. cit., 1986, p. 393, cat. no. 323, reproduced).
Preparatory drawings which have been linked to the Piazza San Pietro view include: Berlin inv. 17554 (for the gentleman lower right) and London f. 11 (the beggar in the centre foreground); f. 12 (gentleman centre left); ff.23, 97 (two gentlemen in the lower centre foreground); ff. 30, 81, 99, 128 (four gentlemen lower left); ff. 61, 62, 64, 95, 105, 106 (statues and architectural details); f. 65 (carriage in middle-ground); and ff. 102, 107 (ladies in foreground). Preparatory drawings which have been linked to the Piazza del Quirinale view include: in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle inv. 13107 (for the gentleman standing alone, re-used for the same figure in Panini’s painting of Piazza San Pietro in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; Arisi, ibid., p. 466, cat. no. 472, reproduced) and London ff. 100, 103 (two priests lower centre); f. 101 (two ladies in the foreground); f. 144 (horse-drawn cart and man lower left); and f. 145 (youth standing by his dog lower centre).
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