Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli
Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli


Inspired by Chatsworth: A Selling Exhibition


Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli
Asking Price: $1,350,000

oil on canvas
38 1/4  by 64 1/2  in.; 97 by 164 cm.
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Commissioned by Luis de la Cerda Fernandez de Cordova Folch de Cardona y Aragon, 9th Duke of Medinaceli (1654 - 1711), in circa 1700, and thence by descent within the family;
By whom anonymously sold ('Property from a Spanish Private Collection'), London, Sotheby’s, 9 July 2008, lot 89;
Acquired after the sale 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, exh. cat., Chiostro del Bramante, Rome, 16 October 2002 - 9 February 2003, and Venice, Museo Correr,
Venice, 28 February - 18 May 2003, p. 45, no. 187, 'Prespectiva de Tivoli... 3,000 reales'.


This painting, which had not been seen by the public until it was sold at Sotheby's in 2008, is a highly significant rediscovery and had remained in the collection of the heirs of Don Luis de la Cerda Fernandez de Cordova Folch de Cardona y Aragon, 9th Duke of Medinaceli, since circa 1700 when he commissioned it.

Don Luis amassed an extraordinary collection of paintings during his lifetime and the inventory taken on his death in 1711 lists 388 paintings, including fifteen by Guido Reni,1 eleven by Carlo Maratta, and six by 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.  It was here that Don Luis would have made Vanvitelli's acquaintance and indeed later, in 1700, the artist was to choose the Duke as his son's godfather.3 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, receiving 120 scudi per month, as recorded by Pascoli.4 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 recent 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.5

As with all the Vanvitellis 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 versions of this view of Tivoli, all of significantly smaller dimensions.6

Until it was sold in 2008, this painting had been known only through the reference made to it in the inventory taken on the death of Don Luis where it is listed as no. 187: 'Prespectiva de Tibuli... 3,000 rs'.7 Valued at 3,000 reales, the same sum as Velasquez's The Spinners, now at the Prado,8 this painting was given the highest valuation of all the thirty-six works by Vanvitelli listed, presumably on the basis of its monumental dimensions.  Indeed there is some correlation between size and value in the inventory; of those that can be identified today, the smaller works tend to have been given lower values than the larger ones.  Interestingly, of the four works listed in the inventory at 3,000 reales, three (including this one) are still in the Medinaceli collection, and one (no. 196; 'Prespectiva del Castillo del huevo de Napoles'), only left the collection when it was sold at Sotheby's on 13 December 2001, lot 86, for £1,818,500.9 The family have therefore kept hold of the largest, most valuable works, while they gradually disposed of the less important. 

Of the thirty-six works by Vanvitelli listed in the inventory, 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, and not one of the three Florentine views, can be identified.  Seven are described with no specific location and are so far untraced, and the final work, the only view of Tivoli, is the present painting.  Of the few Vanvitellis securely identified as Medinaceli commissions, four were recently exhibited together 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).10

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, 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 in Spain. His patronage inspired future generations, not least the 13th Duke de Medinaceli who, amongst many other acquisitions, gathered together eighty-two works by Luca Giordano.  The Neapolitan veduta itself owes a great deal to the Duke; in bringing Vanvitelli to Naples Medinaceli 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 Vanvitelli's son, Luigi, was to become the foremost architect in Naples in the 18th century.

4 L. Pascoli in Vite de' pittori, scultori ed architetti viventi..., G. Briganti et al., (eds), Treviso 1981, pp. 10, 17, 25 note 21 and 24 note 31.

5 C. Beddington in Capolavori in Festa:  Effimero barocco a largo di Palazzo (1683-1789), exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Naples, 20 December 1997 - 15 March 1999, p. 143.

6 G. Briganti in Gaspar van Wittel, L. Laureati and L. Trezzani (eds), Naples 1996, pp. 220-21, cat. nos. 242-46.

7 Lleó Cañal 1989, p. 115.

8 No. 18 in the inventory.

9 The other two valued at 3,000 scudi are nos 176: 'Otra pintura de Gasparo Vambitel de la Plaza Navona'; and 177: 'Otra de la Plaza de San Marcos', both of which are now in the Medinaceli collection at the Hospital de Tavera, Toledo.

10 See L. Trezzani, under Literature, nos 69, 70, 71, and 74 respectively. Nos 69 and 70 are now in private collections having been sold at Sotheby's on 13 December 2001, lots 85 and 86; the other two are still in the Medinaceli collection at the Hospital de Tavera, Toldeo.

Inspired by Chatsworth: A Selling Exhibition