This view painting is characteristic of the type of decoration that was popular in the mid-seventeenth century in Rome, the best-known practitioners of which were Alessandro Salucci and Viviano Codazzi. These vedute evolved out of sixteenth-century painting, specifically the architectural settings that formed the framework of large-scale frescoes and ceiling decoration known as Quadratture. When applied to easel painting in the following century, the architectural elements gained prominence over the narrative and began to serve as the subject of these paintings. The present work is a beautiful example of these architectural pieces or fantasy landscapes, and of the collaborative efforts of Alessandro Salucci and Jan Miel.
Alessandro Salucci was aware of the classical marine views of Claude Lorrain, who was painting in Rome in the 1640s and 1650s. Salucci assimilated Claude's warm, golden light and balanced compositional structure. In fact, Salucci's most outstanding work, Fantasy view with figures, in the Busiri-Vici collection, Rome (G. Briganti et al., The Bamboccianti, Rome, 1983, p. 129, no. 4.40), must surely have derived from Claude's port views, such as Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba of 1648 (National Gallery, London).
Antique architecture often appears in Salucci's paintings. The structures, however, are not recorded in archeological detail but are borrowed motifs used for decorative effect. Andrea Busiri-Vici notes that Salucci's compositions are generally comprised of a Roman arcade dominating the middleground on the left, water in the distance on the right, and figures in the foreground - precisely the arrangement used in the present work. The portico on the left with paired columns and pedestals and the double-story loggia are also common in Salucci's views, while the Gothic-style palace further back is unusual in his work, and probably derives from Viviano Codazzi or Monsù Desiderio.
The bambocciante figure painter, Jan Miel, was Salucci's most frequent collaborator. Miel excelled at relating stories, although his preoccupation with narrative often resulted in cursory depictions of the human form. The large open spaces in Salucci's view paintings provided suitable settings for Miel's anecdotal scenes, many of which appeared in a single work; see, for example, how the elegant couple on the stairs of the portico on the lower left interact independently of the figures at the well beside them, while they, in turn, are oblivious to the card players on the steps further back.
We are grateful to Prof. David R. Marshall for suggesting the attribution to Alessandro Salucci, and for tentatively ascribing the figures to Jan Miel (written communication, 1 May 2001). He proposes a date of c. 1658/60 for the painting. Prof. Riccardo Lattuada has confirmed the attribution to Salucci and Miel, on the basis of photographs (private communication, July 2006).