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Andrea Locatelli (Rome 1695-1741)
Perhaps it is fitting that the late St. Louis lawyer Christian B. Peper amassed a comprehensive collection of exquisite drawings, watercolors, oil sketches and paintings by the great 19th century topographical artist Edward Lear. Peper, who died last summer at the age of 100, earned an undergraduate degree in Classics from Harvard University, home of the Houghton Library which has the largest (upward of 4,000 works) and most important collection of art and archival documents by Lear. After Harvard, Peper returned to St. Louis, earned a law degree and established his own law firm, Martin Peper Martin in 1941. In addition to his law practice, Peper pursued his interest in the Classics and, beginning in the 1960s during visits to London, began collecting art. A board member and chief counsel of the St. Louis Art Museum, Peper generously donated several works to the museum, which showed a selection of his collection in the 2002 exhibition, A Gentleman Collects. Ten works by Lear from the Peper collection will be sold in New York in the Old Master Paintings and Old Master & Early British Drawings & Watercolors sales on January 25th and 26th. These works span the length of Lear's career from the late 1830s until 1880, and much like Lear's own peripatetic life their subjects range from Italy to Greece and beyond the Mediterranean to Montenegro and Turkey plus as far afield as India, where Lear visited when he was in his sixties. In addition, almost every style and type of painting and drawing by Lear is represented in the Peper collection. The technique of his meticulous pencil sketches from the 1830s of Rome and Florence derive from the eighteenth century English topographical tradition. His expressive oil sketches of Villa d'Este in the Tivoli Gardens and a view of Cefalu, Sicily were done in the 1840s before he received any formal training in oil paint. His sketch of Andora, Italy is an example of his 'penned out' method where a preliminary sketch done in situ is later worked up in pen and ink and watercolor, following his pencil outlines and color annotations. A work like this -- which was for Lear's own reference and not made as a finished work or to be sold -- would have been the basis for the sort of finished watercolor exemplified by A fisherman's house on the Bosphorus of 1848, or the 1880 composition in oil, A view of Gwalior, India. Christian Peper was as steadfast a collector of Lear as Lear was a traveler and artist, for it wasn't until 1996 when Peper was in his eighties that he made what he called his 'crowning acquisition', Lear's magnificent watercolor and bodycolor view of Montenegro, executed between 1870 and 1872, based on sketches from the artist's trip to the Dalmatian coast in 1866. Made for his most important patron, Thomas George Baring, 1st Earl of Northbrook, it was sold by his descendants in 1992 and Peper acquired it shortly thereafter, becoming only its second owner -- and a most appropriate custodian of this masterpiece. Property from the Estate of Christian B. Peper includes lots 40 and 54-60 in this sale, lots 259-273 in Old Master Paintings Part II, and lots 22-23, 85, 93, 94, 115, 119, 126, 128, 130 and 136 in Old Master & Early British Drawings & Watercolors PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF CHRISTIAN B. PEPER
Andrea Locatelli (Rome 1695-1741)

The Roman Forum

Andrea Locatelli (Rome 1695-1741)
The Roman Forum
oil on copper
29 x 37 in. (73.7 x 94 cm.)
Liechtenstein family collections, Vienna.
with Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London, 1997-1998, from whom acquired by Christian B. Peper.
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Splendor of 18th Century Rome, 16 March-28 May 2000, pp. 391-392, no. 240.

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Lot Essay

This luminous view of the Roman Forum was almost certainly painted as a pendant to the View of the Piazza Navona with a market (fig. 1), signed and dated 1733, that was given to the Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna by the estate of Prince Johann of Liechtenstein in 1881. Both compositions share the same dimensions and large copper support, which Locatelli only used on rare occasions. In fact, both panels stand out in the artist's oeuvre as part of a remarkably small group of topographically accurate view paintings. In addition to the Vienna panel, Locatelli's other known vedute reali are the pair of large perspective views of the projected Castello di Rivoli that the artist painted for another illustrious patron, (Castello di Racconigi, Turin), a view of the Tiber with the Ponte Rotto (Städtische's Museum-Gemäldegalerie, Wiesbaden), and a View of the Tiber with the Castel Sant'Angelo (private collection, Rome).

The Vienna panel represents the same view from the piano nobile of the Palazzo Massimo Lancelotti that, working a generation earlier, Gaspare Vanvitelli had employed for a series of paintings datable from 1688 to 1723 (for an example, see lot 39 of this sale). In no small part due to Bernini's unforgettable Four Rivers Fountain and the magnificent undulating façade of Borromini's Sant'Agnese church, that the Piazza Navona became one of the most popular squares in Rome in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and was often represented by view painters. The present composition appears to be entirely conceived by Locatelli and its pairing with the Piazza Navona is uncommon - views of the Piazza Navona were most frequently paired with views of the piazza of Saint Peter's. As with the Vienna panel, here Locatelli has painted a view teeming with figures taken out of the lower tiers of Roman society, subjects to which the artist dedicated so much of his career. Men and women congregate in the foreground while others drive carts amongst the ruins. Above all, the scene is dominated by animals. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Roman Forum was known as the Campo Vaccino and served as a cow pasture. Unlike many of his contemporaries, such as Giovanni Paolo Panini, Locatelli chose to emphasize this aspect of this site rather than suppress it. Accordingly, cows fill the scene, together with a few horses, sheep, and oxen.

As Bowron has observed (loc. cit.), Locatelli's emphasis on the low-life figures and animals in this painting superseded his desire to capture every detail of the topography with absolute fidelity. Thus, the artist has manipulated the placement of several iconic buildings, such as the Arch of Titus in the distance and the Temple of Castor and Pollox, which frames the composition on the right. The view was apparently captured about halfway down the forum, at the site of a fountain and water trough that were erected in the sixteenth century (these were removed in 1816 to the Piazza del Quirinale). Just behind these, one sees the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice (now destroyed) and to its left, the Farnese Gardens.

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