Amersfoort 1652/3 - 1736 Rome
oil on canvas
97 by 164 cm.; 38 1⁄4 by 64 1⁄2 in.

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Commissioned by Luis de la Cerda Fernandez de Cordova Folch de Cardona y Aragon, 9th Duque de Medinaceli, in cira 1700, and thence by descent;
Sotheby’s, London, 9 July 2008, lot 89;
Acquired by the present owner in October 2008.

Inventario General de Todos los trastos y Vienes Muebles Pertenecientes a la Cassa del Exmo. Sr. Marques Duque de Medinazeli, mi Señor, [manuscript in the archives of the Duques de Medinaceli, Seville], 1711, no. 187, 'Prespectiva de Tibuli..... 3,000 rs';
V. Lleó Cañal, "The art collection of the ninth Duke of Medinaceli", in The Burlington Magazine, vol. CXXXI, no. 1031, February 1989, pp. 109, 110 and 115, no. 187;
L. Trezzani, in Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origini del vedutismo, exhibition catalogue, Rome, Chiostro del Bramante, 16 October 2002 - 9 February 2003, & Venice, Museo Correr, 28 February - 18 May 2003, p. 45, no. 187, 'Prespectiva de Tivoli... 3,000'.

This impressive View of Tivoli with the Temple of Vesta and Bridge of San Martino is by the leading pioneer of the European 18th century view painting tradition, Gaspar van Wittel. In 2019 the work was included in the exhibition Maestro Van Wittel, Dutch Master of the Italian Cityscape, dedicated to the artist and held at his hometown in Amersfoort. As his name implies, Van Wittel was Dutch in origin, having been born in Amersfoort in around 1652/3, but in 1674 he travelled south to the warmer climes of Italy and settled there for the remainder of his life, dying in Rome in 1736. During his lifetime he became thoroughly Italianized and adopted the name ‘Vanvitelli’, as well as the nickname ‘Gasparo degli Occhiali’, in reference to his bespectacled appearance, no doubt an aid for the execution of his highly detailed cityscapes such as the present work.

This large panoramic view by Vanvitelli depicts the town of Tivoli, which lies around 30 kilometres east-north-east of Rome. In the centre of the scene the Bridge of San Martino spans the Aniene river, which issues from the Sabine mountains and cascades down the valley in a dramatic series of waterfalls. The town was a popular destination for Grand Tourists during the 18th and 19th centuries who flocked to witness its natural beauty, the dramatic waterfalls and its numerous ancient ruins, including the distinctive Roman 1st Century BC Temple of Vesta which dominates the right foreground of the present scene and which would provide inspiration for many later structures, such as William Kent’s 1737 Temple of Ancient Virtue at Stowe House, Buckinghamshire and the north-west corner of Sir John Soane’s celebrated Bank of England, constructed in 1805 and known as ‘Tivoli Corner’. In the centre foreground Vanvitelli has depicted an artist painting en plein air, perhaps intended to be his own likeness or more plausibly an example of one of the many visiting Grand Tourists who turned their hand to painting as part of their classical education.

This view of Tivoli has a highly distinguished provenance, having been painted for the artist’s second most important patron (after Filippo II Colonna), Don Luis de la Cerda Fernández de Cordova Folch de Cardona y Aragón, the 9th Duke of Medinaceli (1660 - 1711), whose full-length portrait by Jacob Ferdinand Voet is today in the Prado, Madrid. During the reign of Charles II, King of Spain, Don Luis was appointed Ambassador to the Holy See of Pope Innocent XII and in 1699 he left Rome to take up the post of Viceroy of Naples, which he held until 1702. Vanvitelli was almost certainly introduced to Don Luis by the artist’s leading patron Filippo II Colonna, who had married Don Luis’ daughter Lorenza de la Cerda in 1681, making him brother-in-law to the future Viceroy. In 1699 Don Luis invited Vanvitelli from Rome to Naples to decorate his private apartments on a monthly salary of 120 scudi and patron and artist are said to have enjoyed a ‘brotherly friendship’, such that when Vanvitelli’s wife gave birth to a son in Naples on 12th May 1700 the artist named him Luigi, the Italianised form of his patron’s name.

Don Luis amassed an extraordinary collection of paintings during his lifetime and the inventory drawn up on his death in 1711 lists 388 paintings, including fifteen by Guido Reni,1 eleven by Carlo Maratta, and six by Luca Giordano.2 By far the most numerous however are those by Vanvitelli who painted no less than thirty-six works for the Duke. Don Luis attained high office at an early age, Charles II appointing him Commander General of the Galleys of Naples at the age of twenty-four and three years later, in 1687, he was appointed Ambassador to Rome. In 1691 Don Luis's father died and he inherited the Dukedom of Medinaceli and the following year he was appointed Viceroy of Naples. In 1699 he invited Vanvitelli to Naples and the artist remained there under Don Luis's patronage until 1702. Don Luis himself returned to Spain in 1701 and during the two years that they were both in Naples, Vanvitelli continued to paint views for the Duke after his return to Spain, a view supported by Charles Beddington's proposal that identifies no. 182 in the 1711 inventory, Plaza del Palacio de Napoles, with a painting signed and dated 1706 now in the Cincinnati Art Museum.3

As with all the works by Vanvitelli listed in the Medinaceli inventory, the actual commission of this view of Tivoli is not recorded and it is thus not known whether the artist executed it in Rome (while Don Luis was Ambassador), in Naples (during his period of patronage), or after Don Luis returned to Spain. It seems likely however that the artist executed it in his studio based on drawings made in situ, just as, for example, the above-mentioned Plaza del Palacio de Napoles must have been executed in the artist's Roman studio, dated as it is to 1706. Briganti records five further views of Tivoli, although all of them are of significantly smaller dimensions.4

Vanvitelli’s large-scale view of Tivoli remarkably remained in the ownership of the descendants of the 9th Duke of Medinaceli until it was acquired by the present owner in 2008, thereby having changed hands only once during its lifetime over the course of more than three centuries. Previously it had been known only through its reference in the inventory drawn up on the death of Don Luis where it is listed as no. 187: 'Prespectiva de Tibuli...3,000 rs'.5 Valued at 3,000 reales, incidentally the same sum as Velázquez's great Hilanderas today in the Prado, Madrid,'6 it was given the highest valuation of all the thirty-six works by Vanvitelli listed, presumably in part due to its monumental dimensions. Indeed there is some correlation between size and value in the inventory; of the works that can be identified today, the smaller canvases tend to have been given lower values than the larger ones in the inventory. Of the thirty-six paintings by Vanvitelli listed, thirteen describe views of Naples, only four of which can be connected with works listed by Briganti in the 1996 catalogue raisonné or which have subsequently come to light; a further five describe views in Venice, of which only one is today identifiable with certainty; similarly only one of the six Roman views can be identified and two out of the three Florentine views have been identified and were sold privately through Sotheby’s. Seven views are described with no specific location and are so far untraced, and the final work, the only view of Tivoli, is the present painting. Among the Vanvitellis securely identified as Medinaceli commissions, four were exhibited together in Rome and Venice in 2003 for the first time: the View of Posillipo (1717, inv. no 181), the View of Naples from the Sea (inv. no. 196), the View of Pizzofalcone from the beach of Chiaia (inv. no. 203) and the View of Sorrento (inv. no. 185 or 186) and the present work was exhibited in Amersfoort in 2019.7

The collection of the 9th Duke was gradually dispersed and subdivided amongst his descendants, particularly following the abolition of the laws of primogeniture in Spain in 1841. Medinaceli's patronage of Vanvitelli, which was second only to that of the Colonna family who owned one hundred works by the artist (many of which remain in situ in Palazzo Colonna, Rome, today), was of immense importance not only to the development of view painting but also to the development of collecting on a grand scale, both in Naples and Spain. His patronage inspired future generations, not least the 13th Duke of Medinaceli who, amongst many other acquisitions, gathered together eighty-two works by Luca Giordano. The Neapolitan veduta itself owes a great deal to Don Luis; in bringing Vanvitelli to Naples he was directly responsible for the completely new visual vocabulary that the artist brought to the depiction of the city, that was to inspire the next generations of vedusti in Naples, through Vernet and Lusieri, into the 19th century.
[1] One of which, described as a 'School of children', was the most highly valued item at 20,000 reales.
[2] For the inventory see Lleo Canal, under Literature , pp. 112-115.
[3] C. Beddington, in Capolavori in Festa: Effimero barocco a largo di Palazzo (1683-1789), exhibition catalogue, Naples, Palazzo Reale, 20 December 1997 - 15 March 1999, p. 143.
[4] G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, eds. L. Laureati & L. Trezzani, Naples 1996, pp. 220-21, cat. nos. 242-46.
[5] Lleo Canal, op. cit. , p. 115.
[6] No. 18 in the inventory.
[7] See L. Trezzani, under Literature, nos. 69, 70, 71 and 74 respectively. Nos 69 and 70 are now in private collections having been sold in these Rooms, 13 December 2001, lots 85 & 86; the other two are still in the Medinaceli collection at the Hospital de Tavera, Toledo.

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