At the beginning of the nineteenth century the international artists colony in Rome formed a sort of counterculture which set itself against the remnants of the eighteenth century classridden society and the academism connected with it. The Cervaro festivities played a central role in this republic of artists. The festivities were held every year from 1812 onwards, outside the gates of Rome at the Cervaro Caves on the banks of the Anio river. Originally, the artists came to draw or paint the surrounding nature, followed by a picnic, but the social aspects gradually gained the upper hand. Every artist was expected to give evidence of the 'divine spark' within him by some spontaneous contribution to the festivities. (Female artists were not tolerated incidently.) The most wonderful costumes were created from atelier props and all manner of junk, to portray people from all ages and nations.
The organisation was in the hands of the German Association of Artists, which evolved from the informal community 'The Knights of Ponte Molle' in 1845. The term German was employed in the broadest sense of the word, as Danes, Belgians and Dutch were also welcome in the community. It is striking that the Englishman Hillingford was also accepted as a member. He probably spoke good German as he had studied at the art academies of Dsseldorf and Munich, before arriving in Rome in November 1845. In the Thieme-Becker lexicon we can read that he was actively involved in organising the Cervaro festivities and that he painted a depiction of one such gathering in 1856 'with the portraits of the participants'. This mention undoubtedly refers to the painting in question, although its co-signatory Quaedvlieg is not mentioned.
The painter Charles Quaedvlieg (Valkenburg, 21 March 1823-Rome, 3 March 1874) had studied in Dsseldorf just as Hillingford had, before making a number of study trips. After the premature death of his wife, he moved to Rome permanently. There he gained a good reputation after winning first prize for painting in 1854 for his historical piece Saul at the soothsayer of Endor, after which the work was placed in the Pantheon. Later he would concentrate on perfecting depictions of the Carnival of Rome and panoramas of the Roman Campagna. Quaedvlieg was on friendly terms with the King of Naples and Princess Marianne, who resided in her villa Celimontana in Rome. No less than six canvases from his hand were found in her collection.
The co-operation between Hillingford and Quaedvlieg is notable as both painters were skilled as multi-figure historical pieces. Mutual friendship must therefore have formed the basis of this painting, which is interesting in a cultural-historical context.
For further information on this subject-matter, see the exhibition catalogue: Knstlerleben in Rom: Bertel Thorwaldsen (1770-1844). Der dnische Bildhauer und seine deutschen Freunde, 1992, pp. 177-181, pp.473-481, cat.no. 3.65-3.72.
We are grateful to Michiel Roding for preparing this catalogue entry.
The prospective buyer is kindly requested to loan the present lot to the forthcoming exhibition De Blijvende Verlokking-Nederlandse kunstenaars in Italie 1820-1940 to be held at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht, in the summer of 2000.