The present lot was hitherto known to scholars only through its engraving by Elisabeth Cousinet-Lempereur (b. 1726), which bears the inscription: “Jean Paul Pannini Pinx. E.C. Femme Lempereur sculp. / LES TROIS COLONNES DE CAMPO VACCINO / Dédié à Madame Le Comte / Tableau tiré du Cabinet de Madame le Comte / d’un pied et demi de haut, sur 2 p. de large / A Paris, chés Lempereur graveur du Roy, Rue de la Harpe vis-à-vis la rue Serpente. / Par son très humble et très Obéisant serviteur Lempereur”. This indicates that the painting was thus engraved when it belonged to Marguerite Le Comte, alongside its pendant, Preaching of a Sybil with the Pyramid of Cestius, which was likewise engraved and inscribed. The latter, which is likely to be the one published
by Arisi as Panini, private collection, Cremona (Arisi 1986, cat. 44; 44 x 61 cm.), could have been painted by Ghisolf, as David Marshall suggests in his article (David R. Marshall, ‘Early Panini Reconsidered: The Esztergom 'Preaching of an Apostle' and the Relationship between Panini and Ghisolf’, Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 18, no. 36., 1997, pp. 137-199). As Marshall demonstrates, it was not uncommon for Panini to paint works to pair with those by Ghisolf.
Marguerite Le Comte (Paris c.1719-c.1786) was an amateur printmaker and engraved portraits of Clement XIII and Cardinal Alessandro Albani. She travelled to Italy in 1763-64 with her lover Claude-Henri Watelet, and it could have been then that Marguerite le Comte acquired the pair. She knew Hubert Robert, who dedicated a series of etchings to her (Cayeux, 1985, pp. 65-67) and it is possible that she knew Panini too, although he would die the following year.
The composition was then copied by Francesco Guardi (fg. 1; New York, Adam Williams Fine Art, Master Paintings and Sculpture,
16 January-13 February 2003, no. 15b, lent by Giancarlo Baroni) in what looks like his only homage to Panini. Considering the mirrored orientation of the two works, it seems that Guardi has lifted the composition from the engraving, however the similar tonalities would suggest that Guardi had seen and was inspired by the original painting.
As Marshall notes, 'Although the three columns are identifed in the Lempereur engraving as those of the Temple of Castor Pollux in the Forum, they are not completely based on them: the shafts in our picture are unfuted, the capitals have more in common with those of the Temple of Vespasian, and the arrangement of the entablature does not correspond to the upward tapering of those of the Temple of Castor and Pollux' (op. cit.). The round temple behind the three columns, which is quite generic, appears often in Panini’s early maturity, and is reminiscent of Marco Ricci’s etchings. The vase as well is a Panini invention, with the figures (presumably bacchantes and maenads) relating to the Borghese vase, and the fine acanthus ornament at the base to the Medici
vase: these two vases, similar to each other, were the best-known monumental antique vases in Rome in Panini’s time. He often includes similar examples related to them in his capricci, and almost invariantly they have a wedge missing from the rim at the right, similar to that found here. The Chiton Torso, seen on the left here, is a rare motif, although the statue was highly visible in the Vatican. Marshall argues in his article that the depiction of the torso in this painting derives from a composition by Ghisolf which he names the Esztergom composition. A variant of the present lot, dated to 1750, is in the Louvre (in deposit at Valence).
We are grateful to Professor David Marshall for his kind assistance in the cataloguing of this picture.