Giovanni Paolo Panini (Italian, Piacenza 1691 - 1765 Rome)
Roman Ruins with the Arch of Titus, 1734
Signed and dated at bottom, left of center: I.P.P. / 1734.
Oil on canvas
29 3/4 x 41 7/16 in. (75.6 x 105.3 cm)
Mrs. F. F. Prentiss Fund, 1969
Giovanni Paolo Panini was the leading painter of vedute, or topographical views, in Rome during the eighteenth century. This characteristically fanciful and idealized recapitulation of the Roman forum gathers some of the most beautiful monuments of antiquity with little regard for historic or geographic accuracy. Panini's paintings were especially popular with English and French visitors to Rome who desired souvenirs of their travels.The ruined structures in this elegant scene are readily identifiable as (from left to right): the Arch of Titus (ca. 81 A.D.); the Temple of Saturn (501-493 B.C.); the three remaining columns of the Temple of Vespasian (1st century A.D.); in the distance, the Theater of Marcellus (completed 13/11 B.C.); and at right, the Temple of Fortuna Virilis (early 1st century B.C.). In the foreground at the far right is the purple-rose porphyry Sarcophagus of Constantia (4th century A.D., now in the Vatican Museum), and various architectural fragments are scattered across the rest of the foreground. While the monuments are fairly accurately described in painstaking detail--Panini frequently used a straightedge to incise the lines and angles of the architecture--the animated figures are more freely painted, in a style that reflects the influence of Panini's teacher Benedetto Luti (1666-1724).
The Oberlin painting represents the type of picturesque veduta for which Panini was best known: an idealized, fanciful recapitulation of the Roman forum, the vedute ideate juxtaposes the most beautiful and famous monuments of antiquity with blithe disregard for topographical accuracy. Panini's romantic compilations of ruined monuments were especially popular with English and French visitors to Rome who desired evocative souvenirs of the classical sites visited during their Grand Tours.1 Indeed, several foreign patrons commissioned specific vedute from the artist.2
Panini frequently revived entire compositions or portions of them, possibly to expedite the production of these popular paintings. For example, precisely the same group of buildings featured in the Oberlin painting are seen in a composition signed and dated 1739 (with only slight adjustments in placement or detail).3 The foreground staffage and scattered architectural fragments are completely different in the two paintings, however. Even more common was the repetition of individual motifs: the Arch of Titus appears in approximately eleven other paintings, as does the Sarcophagus of Constantia; the Temple of Fortuna Virilis is included in at least sixteen others. Panini's inventive and infinitely variable combinations of familiar monuments allowed the contemporary viewer to delight in identifying individual motifs from an unexpected context, and in pinpointing the artist's own modifications and alterations.
M. E. Wieseman
Giovanni [Gian] Paolo Panini [Pannini] was the foremost painter of vedute, or topographical views, in Rome during the eighteenth century. Many of his compositions glorify the remnants of the city's classical past while others, animated depictions of processions, ceremonies, and festivals, record contemporary topography, lifestyles, and customs. Panini received instruction in painting and perspective in Piacenza, then in 1711 moved to Rome and continued his studies with the figure painter Benedetto Luti (1666-1724). In Rome, he was also influenced by the classical ruin pictures of Giovanni Ghisolfi (1623-1683) and the landscapes of Jan Frans van Bloemen and Andrea Locatelli (1695-1741). In 1719 Panini was nominated to the Accademia di San Luca, where he taught perspective drawing and later served as president (principe). He became a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris in 1732, a rare honor for a Roman painter. During the 1720s Panini painted several decorative fresco cycles in Roman palazzi and villas. In the last thirty years of his life, the artist specialized in painting the Roman views for which he is best known: minutely detailed architectural fantasies enlivened with freely drawn figures, sometimes depicting religious and historical subjects or contemporary events. To meet the demand for his pictures, Panini oversaw a thriving workshop which included his son Francesco (b. 1738) and the transplanted Frenchman Hubert Robert (1733-1808). His influence can be felt in the works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Giovanni Antonio Canaletto. Panini married Catherine Gosset, sister-in-law of the painter Nicolas Vleughels (1668-1737), in 1724. He died in Rome on 21 October 1765.
Arisi, Ferdinando. Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ‘700. 2d ed. Rome, 1986.
Kiene, Michael. Pannini: Les Dossiers du Musée du Louvre, no. 41. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1993.
Giovanni Paolo Panini 1691-1765. Exh. cat., Palazzo Gotico, Piacenza, 1993.
Collection the third viscount Astor (d. 1966), Cliveden House, Buckinghamshire
Sale Viscountcy Astor settlement, London (Christie's), 21 June 1968, lot 105, ill.
With Galleria Mario dei Fiori, Rome
Allen Memorial Art Museum Bulletin 27, no. 2 (Winter 1970), p. 65, fig. 3.
Arisi, Ferdinando. Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ‘700. 2d ed. Rome, 1986, pp. 118-19, 208, 342, cat. no. 223.
Prior to 1969, the original lightweight linen support was lined onto a heavy open mesh linen scrim, and tacked to an old stretcher (possibly original). The original tacking margins have been trimmed. The ground is fairly thick, composed of a bottom layer of pale red and a thinner upper layer of warm light grey. The lines of the architecture are incised into the wet ground using a straightedge as a guide; the inscription over the arch at left is incised freehand into the wet paint. The paint is mostly applied wet-in-wet, with visible brushmarks especially in the foreground figures. Fine, precise accents in thin dark paint were added to define architectural details; many of these touches have been lost to general abrasion of the surface. There is a horizontal area of damage (ca. 17.8 cm long) in the sky at upper right, possibly caused during lining. There is moderate retouching in the sky (most associated with this damage) and in the right foreground.
1. See Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900 (New Haven and London, 1981), p. 84.
2. Among them the Duc de Choiseul, French Ambassador to Pope Benedict XIV; Cardinal Melchior de Polignac, Louis XV's chargé d'affaires in Rome; and Henry Grey, Duke of Kent (Ferdinando Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ‘700 [Rome, 1986], cat. nos. 445 and 470-75; cat. nos. 199-200; and cat. no. 217, respectively). On Panini's French patrons, see Michael Kiene, in Pannini: Les Dossiers du Musée du Louvre 41 (exh. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1993), esp. pp. 19-20.
3. Oil on canvas, 98 x 134 cm, private collection, Campione d'Italia; Ferdinando Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ‘700 (Rome, 1986), p. 368, cat. no. 270.