Vanvitelli, the father of Italian view painting, was born Gaspar van Wittel at Amersfoort, near Utrecht. Recorded as a pupil of Matthias Withoos, he was in Rome by 1675. His earliest known picture, a view of the Piazza del Popolo, is dated 1680 (Briganti, op. cit., p. 132, no. 1, illustrated), and he subsequently developed a highly successful career painting views of Rome and other Italian cities (see lot 112), even being elected in 1711 to the Roman Accademia di San Luca.
As pointed out by Briganti (op. cit., p. 174), the present picture is the only known view of the Fontana dell'Acqua Paola by Vanvitelli, although a copy of similar dimensions with minor variations was sold at Sotheby's, 7 April 1982, lot 32. No preparatory drawing is known. Another depiction of the fountain, taken from a view point which is much closer to the fountain itself, bearing the initials 'G.V.W.', was rejected by Briganti in the manuscript notes which accompanied his personal copy of his original monograph (op. cit., p. 174, under no. 117).
The Fountain was built by Flaminio Ponzio and Giovanni Fontana in 1610-12, at the behest of Pope Paul V. In 1690, Carlo Fontana replaced the original five small basins into which the water flowed with the single pool visible in the present picture. Immediately to the right of the fountain is the garden of the Villa Farnese. Partially destroyed in 1849, it was restored and in 1885 sold to the American heiress Clara Jessup who changed its name to the Villa Aurelia. Today it is the property of the Accademia Americana and is once again known as the Villa Farnese. To the left of the dome of Saint Peter's is the Villa Lante, with what was probably the Casino Riario in front. This is now the site where, ever since 1904, a firing cannon has announced midday. To the right is the Trastevere with the Monte Mario beyond.