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Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Amsersfoort 1652/3-1736 Rome)
Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Amsersfoort 1652/3-1736 Rome)

The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, looking towards the Forum, with figures and artists sketching

Details
Gaspar van Wittel, called Vanvitelli (Amsersfoort 1652/3-1736 Rome)
The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, looking towards the Forum, with figures and artists sketching
signed 'GASPARE VAN WITTEL ROMA' (lower centre, on a fallen capital)
oil on canvas
19.3/8 x 42½ in. (49.2 x 108 cm.)
Provenance
Anne Visser, née van Bylandt (1866-1929), who probably inherited this picture and the following lot from a relative (a print of her coat of arms on the reverse of the canvases), and by descent to the present owners.

Lot Essay

Vanvitelli, the father of Italian view painting, was born Gaspar van Wittel at Amersfoort. Having studied under Matthias Withoos, he travelled to Rome, where he is first recorded in 1675. Known as Vanvitelli, he spent the rest of his life there, apart from a few trips to northern Italy during the early 1690s, a stay in Naples in 1700 to 1701 and possibly other, undocumented, trips before circa 1730.

This view shows the Colosseum seen from the gardens of the friars of Santa Francesca Romana that were built over the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome. Today the viewpoint would be at the end of the Via dei Fori Imperiali. Between the Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine on the right, the Vigna Paganica with the ruins of the Curia Ostilia and the gardens of the Noviziato dei Missionari are visible. On the hill behind the gardens, the campanile of the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo rises up on the horizon.

Several versions are known of this hitherto unpublished work. All show differences, in particular in the staffage and in the placement of the ruined columns in the foreground, and two are dated, one 1703 and another 1716 (G. Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, Milan, 1996, pp. 151-155, nos. 54-60; see also A partial view of the Colosseum, no. 61).

The present picture was probably painted as the pendant to the following lot, which is dated 1707: the two are of identical dimensions and are known to have been together since at least the nineteenth century. The pair was possibly purchased in Italy by Frederik Sigmond van Bylandt (1749-1828). His journey is recorded in Annotatien in 't gene men in de Nabuurschap van Napels vind, en in de stad, 22.3.1772, the autograph manuscript of which is kept in the Gemeentearchief of Alkmaar (see R. de Leeuw, Herinnering aan Italië, Kunst en Tourisme in de achttiende eeuw, Zwolle, 1984, p. 258). Although it is likely that Frederik Sigmond acquired the picture, it is not possible to establish this with certainty, for other members of the family may also have gone on a Grand Tour.
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