This drawing is closely related to A view in Rome, an oil on canvas, dated 1632, now in the National Gallery, London (Fig. 1; Inv. 1319; M. Roethlisberger, 1979, op. cit., no. 214) although the composition differs in a few respects. Most importantly the Church of Trinità dei Monti is represented further away in the canvas which also shows the Palazzo Zuccari on the right, omitted on the present drawing. The right half of the picture, with a temple and a statue of Apollo, is imaginary.
Another drawing, also in pen and brown ink but with the addition of brown wash, showing the church from a somewhat similar viewpoint as in the present sheet but with differences in the landscape (for example, Palazzo Zuccari is represented), is in The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (Inv. 7,134; M. Roethlisberger, 1968, op. cit., no. 48). Unlike the present sheet, the Hermitage drawing is devoid of figures and animals (nor does it include the two trees on the right of the present work), but on its verso are studies of a few figures including one milking a goat. In the foreground of the National Gallery picture are five figures but no goat. It is possible that the Hermitage drawing was drawn from life on the spot and that the present work, more detailed and resembling more a painted composition, was executed soon afterwards in the studio.
Claude’s technique and method as a draughtsman varied throughout his life depending on the purpose of each drawing. The ideal and lyrical landscapes are often made with free pen work and lavishly applied washes while the more topographical drawings usually show a more precise and meticulous use of the pen. The latter technique is apparent in this drawing which can be compared with several sheets representing existing sites such as View in the Orti Sallustiani in Rome and A coastal landscape with a view of the castle of Palo, both in the Louvre, and The castle of Tivoli, in the British Museum (Inv. RF 4566, RF 4574 and Oo,6.78; M. Roethlisberger, 1968, op. cit., 303, 324 and 535).
Praised through the centuries as the greatest of all ideal landscape painters, Claude rarely portrayed actual sites. The view of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti, however, is clearly topographical and it has been suggested that the view might have been taken from immediately above the artist’s house in Via Margutta, a modest street near the Piazza di Spagna in the foreign artists’ quarter of Rome (M. Roethlisberger, 1968, op. cit., p. 91).
This drawing was included by Prof. Marcel Roethlisberger in his catalogue raisonné of Claude's drawings but as at the time he only knew it through its reproduction in the Northwick sale catalogue of 1920 he wrote that "no conclusion about the authorship can be drawn". Having now seen it in the flesh, Prof. Roethlisberger, who we thank for his help in cataloguing this drawing, fully supports the attribution to Claude. He dates this drawing and the one in the Hermitage to about 1632.
Fig. 1. Claude Gellée, called Claude Lorrain, A view in Rome © National Gallery, London.