2 More

The Forum, Rome, with Santa Francesca Romana and the Colosseum beyond

The Forum, Rome, with Santa Francesca Romana and the Colosseum beyond
signed and dated 'H·van·Lint·Ft / 1715' (lower left)
oil on canvas
22 x 42 1/8 in. (55.9 x 108.3 cm.)
(Probably) John Astley (d. 1718), a younger son of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt., and by descent at Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk to the following,
Sir Jacob Henry Astley, 5th Bt. (1756-1817), and by descent to his son,
Sir Jacob Astley, 6th Bt. and later 16th Baron Hastings (1797-1859), Melton Constable Hall, Norfolk, and by descent to the present owner.

Brought to you by

Clementine Sinclair
Clementine Sinclair Senior Director, Head of Department

Lot Essay

This fine canvas by Hendrik Frans van Lint, one of the most accomplished and sought-after vedutisti working in Rome in the first half of the eighteenth century, captures one of the most celebrated views in the ancient city. It remains in a beautiful state of preservation and has an unbroken provenance since its commission in 1715.
The Forum is shown from the Column of Foca, looking from west to east, as it would have appeared before the extensive excavations of the nineteenth century. Van Lint has recorded the principal monuments and ruins of this most important of Ancient sites that would have appealed to the large number of Grand Tourists, for whom a visit to Rome was an obligatory part of their itinerary. From the left, is depicted the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, which incorporates the columns of the former Temple of Antoninus and Faustina into its portico; and next to this are the remains of the colossal vaults of the Basilica of Constantine, long considered one of the 'marvels of Rome'. Also visible just below is the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano, dating from 1527 (encompassing the ancient circular Temple of Romulus and the area of the Forum Pacis). In the distance, the upper part of the Colosseum can be seen, and next to this the church of Santa Maria Nova (now known as Santa Francesca Romana), with its characteristic Romanesque campanile. At the far end of the Via Sacra is the Arch of Titus, built in AD81-2 to commemorate the Sack of Jerusalem in AD70, as it looked before the nineteenth century restorations, still supporting the remains of a medieval fortress.
To the right of the Arch is the retaining wall of the Farnese Gardens, built during the sixteenth century by Giacomo Vignola, with the entrance gate clearly visible in profile (this was destroyed in 1882). Above this, on top of the Palatine Hill is the Casino Farnese and the famous gardens with the Cypress trees silhouetted against the sky. In the middle ground to the right stand three large columns supporting a fragment of entablature, which is all that remains of the Temple of Castor and Pollux, erected in the 5th Century BC in honour of the twin sons of Jupiter. To the right of this is the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice (now destroyed). Onorio Longhi’s 1617 baroque façade was devised to emulate the exterior of the church of the Gesù, designed by Giacomo della Porta. Della Porta was also responsible for the fountain, seen at the centre of the composition, which incorporates a large Roman basin found near Arco di Settimio Severo. In the foreground and middle distance, Van Lint depicts a wide range of figures and livestock traversing the Via Sacra, the latter a reminder that for centuries this site was known as the Campo Vaccino, or 'cow pasture'. A smaller variant of this view (44 x 69 cm.) is in the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath.
Born in Antwerp, van Lint trained briefly under Pieter van Bredael in 1696-7, before travelling to Rome in 1700, where he spent the rest of his life (except for a brief trip to Antwerp in 1710 following the death of his mother). Once in Rome, van Lint found a large community of northern artists living and working in the Tridente, and became a member of the Schildersbent, the fraternal association of northern artists in Rome. He seems to have gravitated towards Gaspar van Wittel, il Vanvitelli, a native of Amersfoort, who had settled in Rome in 1675 and who became one of the most successful artists of his generation, famed for his topographical views. The young van Lint may have worked in Vanvitelli's studio, assisting the older artist in the large number of commissions that would at times overwhelm him late in his career. He became an active member of Rome's artistic community and lived in a house on the via Babuino. He was a member of the Congregazione Artistica dei Virtuosi al Pantheon from 1744, and was elected Rector in 1755. This was a corporation of artists who organised annual exhibitions of their own paintings on the metal railings in front of the Pantheon. He probably also worked as a picture restorer, and among his ten children, Giacomo became a distinguished landscapist in his own right.
Van Lint's own work was enthusiastically collected by prominent visitors to Rome and aristocrats on the Grand Tour, as well as some of the great patrician Roman families, including the Altoviti, Capponi, Pamphili, Sacchetti and Soderini, while Don Lorenzo Colonna had a particular taste for his work, owning no less than seventy landscapes by the artist. The artist, who prepared his compositions with extraordinary care, became known in this circle as 'Studio'. Writing in the eighteenth century, Sir Joshua Reynolds singled out the meticulous handling of minute details in van Lint’s work: 'in which he thought the whole excellence of art consisted; so that he once endeavoured, as he said, to represent every individual leaf on a tree' (Discourses on Painting and the Fine Arts, London, 1837, p. 214).
A note on the provenance:
The picture was purchased as part of a larger order by John Astley (d. 1718), a younger son of Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt., of Melton Constable, Norfolk. He was in Padua on 30 January 1716, and is likely to have been the Astley whose presence in Rome on 24 November 1714, and on 20 July and 12 October, is mentioned in the correspondence of William Kent (C. Blackett-Ord, ‘Letters from William Kent to Burrell Massingberd from the Continent, 1712-1719’, The Walpole Society, LXIII, 2001, pp. 87, 89 and 90). In Rome earlier in 1714 Kent had met Astley’s Norfolk neighbour, Thomas Coke, later 1st Earl of Leicester, whose estate at Holkham was less than ten miles from Melton Constable. Kent quickly won Coke’s friendship, accompanying him on a tour of northern Italy in June, returning by November to Rome, where Burlington - who was to become his most influential patron - had arrived on his first visit at the end of September.
Coke himself acquired one canvas of the Castel Sant’ Angelo by van Lint (exhibited London, Jocelyn Feilding, Italian Views from a Private Room in Holkham, 1977, no. 1; wrongly attributed by A. Busiri Vici, Peter, Hendrik e Giacomo Van Lint, Rome, 1987, no. 331, to Giacomo van Lint, who did not reach Rome until 1723), along with three pictures from Vanvitelli - views of the Piazza San Pietro and of the Colosseum, Rome and of Vaprio d’Adda, respectively dated 1715, 1716 and 1717. These en suite pictures are identical in size with the present canvas, which Astley acquired in 1715 along with three matching views by Vanvitelli; Rome, the Tiber with San Giovanni dei Fiorentini and the Castel Sant’ Angelo; Naples, the Darsena with the Castel Nuovo; and Venice, view of Santa Maria della Salute from the entrance of the Grand Canal (Christie’s, London, 8 July 2021, lot 8), the latter signed and dated ‘Roma 1714’.
Astley was one of the four sons of the veteran Tory politician, Sir Jacob Astley, 1st Bt. (c. 1639-1729) who had married in 1661. He was evidently older than most visitors on the Grand Tour and although his father had inherited more than one estate, as a younger son he may have had relatively restricted means. It is thus possible that the pictures were ordered on behalf of his father for whom Melton Constable, the greatest of the late-seventeenth-century houses of Norfolk, was rebuilt by 1687. Sir Jacob was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Philip Astley, 2nd Bt. (1667-1739), whose great-grandson, Sir Jacob Henry Astley, 6th Bt. (1797-1859) became the 16th Baron Hastings in 1841 when that barony was called out of abeyance.

More from Old Masters Evening Sale

View All
View All