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Keeley Halswelle, A.R.S.A. (1832-1891)
This lot will be removed to an off-site warehouse … Read more Property from the Collection of the late Lord Forte
Keeley Halswelle, A.R.S.A. (1832-1891)

Waiting for the blessing of Pope Pius IX at St John Lateran, Rome

Keeley Halswelle, A.R.S.A. (1832-1891)
Waiting for the blessing of Pope Pius IX at St John Lateran, Rome
signed, inscribed and dated 'Keeley Halswelle/ROME/1869-79' (lower right) and further signed and inscribed "WAITING FOR THE BLESSING" of Pius 9th at St John Lateran ROME JUN. 1869. Keeley Halswelle. ARSA.' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
44½ x 70¼ in. (113 x 178.5 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Bonhams, London, 16 April 1981, lot 100.
with Roy Miles, London, 15 June 1981, where purchased by Lord Forte.
Special notice

This lot will be removed to an off-site warehouse at the close of business on the day of sale - 2 weeks free storage

Lot Essay

Born in Richmond, Surrey, Hallswelle began his career working for the Illustrated London News. In 1854 he was sent to make drawings in Scotland, and having received other commissions there, he decided to stay. He settled in Edinburgh and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy, of which he was elected an Associate in 1866. Meanwhile in 1862 he had made his debut at the Royal Academy where he continued to exhibit for thirty years, although he was never a member. His early paintings were English or Scottish genre scenes and landscapes, but in following years until 1879 he showed almost nothing but Italian subjects, mostly Roman but occasionally Venetian.

The present picture is a slightly smaller, but no less noteworthy, version of a work exhibited by Halswelle at the Royal Academy in 1879 (no. 93). It was probably commissioned by an admirer of the Academy exhibit.

St John Lateran was built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century as the cathedral church of the papacy. It was restored by Borromini, and a new facade was added by Alessandro Galilei in 1736. The Pope whose blessing is being awaited was the famous Pio Nono (reigned 1846-1878).

Halswelle witnessed the scene in June 1869 and recorded it as follows in his diary:

'Awaiting the appearance of the Pope on the balcony of the church, numbers of country people in their picturesque costume were grouped about the open space fronting the portico, dotting the scorched grass with masses of colour; a low wall, running at right angles with the church, had been early taken possession of by some of the contadini, their white pannos and gay dresses telling intensely in the brilliant sunshine against the deep blue sky beyond. The monastery and church of Santa Croce in Gerusaleme (and) part of the Claudian aqueduct in the middle distance, with the long line of the Campagna (as far as) the Alban and Sabine mountains, made up a scene of beauty to be long remembered.'

The Academy picture, the last of Halswelle's Italian subjects, evoked much discussion when it appeared in 1879. The Times highlighted 'the vivid colouring of costumes and other palpably picturesque points'. The Athenaeum commented 'the illumination is brilliant and the effect strong. The designing of the figures is highly meritorious, from the variety and spontaneity of their actions, expressions, and characters.' The warmest praise came from the Art Journal, which felt that this 'magnificent daylight picture' was 'one of the best works (the artist) has sent to the Academy for some time.'

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