DELLA GATTA, Xavier (fl.1777-1827). An album of watercolour drawings showing the costumes of the religious orders. [?Naples: c. 1803].
4° (leaves c. 305 x 230mm). 18 watercolour drawings within ink borders on single sheets, titled in manuscript below the image, one signed and dated on the image 'Xavo. della Gatta , 1803', leaves mounted on guards and interleaved with tissue. (Occasional light spotting or marginal dampmarking, one leaf with marginal tear neatly repaired on the verso.) Contemporary half sheep, upper pastedown and rear free endpaper with partial watermarks 'B 180' (covers slightly bowed and dampmarked, spine and corners rubbed with minor losses).
A FINE ALBUM OF COSTUME WATERCOLOURS BY DELLA GATTA, who studied under Giacomo Cestaro and Pietro Fabris in Naples, and appears to have spent his life in the kingdom, producing images of both Neapolitan costumes and the city and its surroundings. With Fabris and Alessandro D'Anna (also one of Fabris's students), Della Gatta illustrated Gaetano De Bottis's Ragionamento istorico intorno all'eruzione del Vesuvio (Naples: 1779), and, like Fabris, Della Gatta enjoyed the patronage of Sir William Hamilton and other grand tourists. Hamilton's cabinet at the Palazzo Sessa included drawings of costumes by Della Gatta, and, following Fabris's death in 1784, Della Gatta and Francesco Progenie became Hamilton's artists to record the eruptions of Vesuvius. Hamilton's letter to the Royal Society describing the 1794 eruption was accompanied by 6 drawings by Della Gatta, 4 of which were engraved to accompany the publication of Hamilton's account in the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions (London: 1795). Fabris's Raccolta di varii vestimenti ed arti nel Regno di Napoli (Naples: 1773) was the first volume to illustrate the costumes of the Kingdom's subjects and Della Gatta followed his tutor's work with an extended series of images, which included a series begun in 1783 (with D'Anna) executed as a royal commission to decorate a porcelain service. Jenkins and Sloan describe a costume group by Della Gatta from 1803 thus: 'What had begun as charming views of picnics in grottoes and views of Naples with street vendors, painted by Fabris from the 1750s through the 1770s, had become an industry where the figures were less stereotyped and more carefully studied, becoming the focus of the composition, while the landscape not only became more generalised and receded into the background, but often disappeared altogether' (Vases & Volcanoes (London: 1996), p.251). This transition is particularly evident in these images, where the emphasis is completely on the costumes -- identified by captions below -- and the setting is of the simplest possible.