The present painting is an important addition to Servandoni's oeuvre from a transitional phase in the artist's career. In 1724 Servandoni left Rome where he was studying with Panini, and he travelled to Paris.
The present canvas relates to two known paintings by Servandoni, one in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris (see H. Lapauze, Le Paysage Française de Poussin à Corot, exhibition catalogue, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris, May-June 1925, no. 309, illustrated), and the other in Lyon. It was generally thought that the Lyon painting was a reduced derivation (in reverse) of the Paris composition. The Paris painting was, in fact, Servandoni's morçeau de réception, which was presented on 26 May 1731.
However, the appearance of the present signed and dated work suggests that this painting is the prime version of the Lyon composition. The Paris morçeau de réception would appear to be a re-working of the theme, in the other sense and using many of the same elements. Both the date and its resemblance in style to the work of Giovanni Paolo Panini place the present painting earlier in Servandoni's oeuvre than the Paris painting.
Set designer, painter, architect and designer of public spectacles, Servandoni began his artistic career in Rome circa 1715. There he studied drawing and perspective with the architectural engraver Giuseppe Ignazio Rossi, and he met Panini. He made his name as a stage designer and by 1724, the date of the present painting, was in Paris where he became the director of stage design at the Opéra. His scene painting made use of bravura techniques using angled perspective in which the vanishing point is placed to one side of the stage. In 1731, Servandoni was admitted to the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture as a painter of architecture. In 1732, he entered and won the competition for the design of the façade of the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. His skills as a theater and festival designer were in demand throughout Europe and he eventually spent two years in England working for, among others, Frederick, Prince of Wales and the opera in Covent Garden.
We are grateful to Professor David Marshall for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.