Giovanni Paolo Panini and Paolo Anesi
An extensive landscape with carriages and elegant figures on a road, including the artist himself, gardens and fields on either side, after 1747
(Probably) Prince John Willard Marie Andrée Poniatowski (1899 – 1977), Paris, thence by descent to his two children
François Charles Michel Marie André (1922 – 2008) and Constance Ava Louise (1925 – 2007).
Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, New York, NY, 31 Jan. 2013, lot 82 (unsold).
Private Collection, Switzerland.
Lensi, ed., Mostra del Giardino Italiano, Florence, 1931, p. 111, nos. 80-81 (with its pendant).
Ozzola, ‘Aggiunte al Panini’, in Strenna (Piacentina) Anno XVIII, Piacenza, 1940, p. 95 (illus. fig. 1; according to Arisi, 1961).
Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini, Rome, 1961, p. 182, no. 182 (illus. fig. 236, detail fig. 237; with erroneous provenance).Busiri Vici, Trittico paesistico romano del ‘700: Paolo Anesi – Paolo Monaldi – Alessio de Marchis, Rome, 1986, pp. 31, 36 (illus. fig. 28, as by Giovanni Paolo Panini and Paolo Anesi).Arisi, Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del ‘700, Rome, 1986, p. 418, no. 373 (illus. fig. 182, with erroneous provenance).
A.M. Rybko, ‘Paolo Anesi’, in G. Briganti, ed., La Pittura in Italia. Il Settecento, Milan, 1990, p. 604 (as a unique collaboration between Anesi and Panini).
Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, Mostra del Giardino Italiano, 1931, nos. 80 and 81 (together with its pendant).
This painting and its erstwhile pendant constitute the only known examples of a collaboration between Gian Paolo Panini, the most celebrated view-painter in 18th Century Rome, and Paolo Anesi, arguably the most accomplished landscapist of his time. Both paintings were almost certainly designed by Panini, as the numerous related preparatory drawings suggest, but the landscapes in both works were executed by Anesi. Given the uniqueness of this occurrence in Panini’s oeuvre it seems reasonable to assume that this was at the patron’s bequest, though the exact circumstances surrounding the commission are unknown.
Giovanni Paolo Panini was the most admired of the Roman vedutisti and his views of ancient and modern Rome inspired foreign visitors to the city, especially those travelling around Italy on the Grand Tour. His paintings typically portrayed the city’s most popular sites, though these monuments were often represented in imaginary surroundings and arranged in fantastical ways. Panini was elected to the Congregazione dei Virtuosi del Pantheon in 1718 and became a member of the Accademia di San Luca the following year, going on to become Principe there in 1754 and 1755. In 1724 Panini married Caterina Gosset, the sister-in-law of Nicolas Vleughels, the director of the Académie Française à Rome. After teaching perspective there, he himself was received as a member of the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris, an honour rarely bestowed upon Roman artists. Panini’s success persisted throughout the second and third quarter of the 18th Century, until his death in 1765, as he met the growing demand for his vedute with an extensive workshop, to which Hubert Robert and Panini’s own son Francesco also belonged.
This exceptional painting, together with its pendant showing the same protagonists in a different environment, are unique in Panini’s oeuvre; not only for their unusual subject matter but also because they constitute the only known example of Panini’s collaboration with another artist. In 1961 Ferdinando Arisi was the first to note that the landscape settings in both paintings were atypical of Panini, but it was not until some years later (1976) that Andrea Busiri Vici convincingly identified them as the product of a unique collaboration between Panini and Paolo Anesi. The latter seems to have been responsible for the landscapes and distant figures in each painting, whilst Panini executed the main protagonists and buildings in the foreground. This hypothesis was accepted by Arisi in his 1986 monograph on Panini, in which he noted the singularity of this occurrence in the artist’s oeuvre.
Paolo Anesi (1697 – 1773) was a contemporary of Panini, though he was six years younger and outlived the older artist by eight years. Anesi was one of the most important paesaggisti working in Rome in the mid-18th Century and he specialised in painting views and ideal landscapes inspired by the Roman campagna. His style is reminiscent of that of Andrea Locatelli (1695 – 1741), another contemporary of both artists and one whose works have often been confused with Anesi’s. His documented frescoes painted for Cardinal Alessandro Albani in Villa Albani (now Torlonia) in 1761 and the large cycle of canvases he painted in 1767 for Villa Chigi at Monte delle Gioie are amongst Anesi’s most accomplished works. In fact, Anesi’s association with the Albani family may be significant with regard to this veduta. Anesi’s frescoes in Villa Chigi, commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692 – 1779), are documented from 1761. The project for the villa originated in 1745 and construction began in 1751, reaching completion twelve years later. Villa Albani was built primarily to house Cardinal Alessandro’s extensive collection of antiquities and ancient Roman sculpture, much of which was dispersed after the Napoleonic wars. Although Panini himself was not employed on the project, he did execute a marvellous watercolour of the external portico of the Galleria at Villa Albani, in all likelihood datable to shortly after its construction in 1758. This piece of evidence demonstrates a clear link between the two artists and Cardinal Alessandro, and it is tempting to assume a possible Albani commission for these two paintings.
Although popular and extremely successful as an independent artist, Anesi is also known to have collaborated with other Roman painters: he provided numerous landscape settings for Paolo Monaldi’s figures, both for easel paintings and for the Chigi cycle mentioned above (one of which is emphatically signed and dated by Anesi). The collaboration with Monaldi would appear to date from the 1760s but Anesi is also known to have worked with another figure-painter much earlier in his career: Pompeo Batoni. Anesi provided the lush landscapes for Batoni’s figures in the Ideal landscape with the Castle of Zagarolo and A fantastical view of the via Appia with the tomb of Cecilia Metella, a pair of pictures in the Marchese Malvezzi-Campeggi Collection in Rome, which have been dated to the end of the 1730s. Anesi’s collaboration with Panini would appear to date from a time between his association with Batoni and Monaldi; that is, most likely, in the first half of the 1750s.
This work and its pendant, also offered at auction in 2013, do not function, strictly speaking, as a pair, though they were certainly conceived together (fig. 1). They depict similar landscapes, perhaps even two different views of the same place. In our painting, two men in formal attire embark on a promenade in the countryside. The countryside is rural in character, and sweeping vistas are framed on each side by towering trees. The painting’s vertical format lends itself to the perspectival representation of the long, straight road.
One of the protagonists can be identified as Panini himself, recognisable by his distinctive physiognomy (particularly the shape of his chin): in fact, Panini may have used his own self-portrait drawing in the British Museum sketchbook as a template given that he wears the same cloth cap (fig. 2). Panini can also be identified by the eight-pointed gold cross on a red ribbon worn on his chest. This medal is the cross of the Cavaliere dello Speron d’Oro. Sponsored by the great art collector and enthusiast Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga (1690 – 1756), Panini was awarded the title in October 1749, thus providing us with a firm terminus post quem for the painting’s execution. In the same year Panini signed and dated his painting of Cardinal Valenti Gonzaga’s picture gallery, now at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, in which Panini represents himself standing next to the Cardinal. The artist’s features compare well with those in the Hartford painting, as well as with his self-portrait in the Concert held at the Teatro Argentina to celebrate the marriage of the Dauphin to Marie-Josephe of Saxony in the Musée du Louvre, Paris (1747); and his self-portrait in the Interior of an Imaginary Picture Gallery with views of Ancient Rome (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart), painted in 1756-57 for the Duc de Choiseul, as a pendant to an Interior of an Imaginary Picture Gallery with views of Modern Rome (1757; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA). The fact that Panini is not shown wearing the order of the Speron d’Oro in the 1747 Concert, nor in the view of Cardinal Valenti Gonzaga’s gallery of 1749, confirms that he had not yet been awarded the honour, especially since he is manifestly shown wearing the medal in all subsequent portrayals. Panini seems a little older here than he does in the Louvre Concert but is certainly close in age to his self-portraits of 1757-59, suggesting that this view and its pendant can be plausibly dated to the first half of the 1750s. Such a dating also accords well with Panini’s pictorial style at this time.
The man accompanying Panini, dressed in black and wearing the cross of the Order of the Knights of Malta, is harder to identify. It is tempting to try to identify him as Paolo Anesi, with whom Panini collaborated on the pictures, but no portrait of Anesi has been identified to date. It also seems unlikely that Anesi would have been a member of the Knights of Malta, despite working in 1732 for the Priorato romano dell’Ordine di Malta in Santa Sabina, at the behest of the Gran Priore Cardinal Ruspoli who was also a patron of Jan Frans van Bloemen and Andrea Locatelli. Although Panini has seemingly portrayed the two main protagonists as ‘equals’, it seems far more likely that Panini was keen to portray himself as of equal status to the man beside him who, quite probably, is the patron who commissioned the two pictures.
It is unclear whether this extensive view represents a specific location outside Rome or is entirely the product of the artists’ imagination. The landscape certainly appears realistic and is reminiscent of the Roman campagna, in particular the area around Frascati. Although none of the villas have been firmly identified, one can’t help but feel that at least some of the buildings may be topographical, given that they are accurately depicted and have a certain specificity about them, though their placement is surely imaginary. The long straight road is evocative of the via Appia leading to the Colli Albani, which Anesi is known to have depicted in another painting, formerly with Galleria Antiquaria Sestieri in Rome. The tree-lined avenue is certainly reminiscent of the via Appia but none of the villas appear in the ex-Sestieri painting.
The distinction between areas painted by Panini and Anesi is by no means clear-cut. The landscapes and trees certainly seem to be by Anesi’s hand, and the foreground buildings and main protagonists are undoubtedly by Panini, but some of the secondary figures and carriages are difficult to attribute with any certainty to one or other artist. The paint surface and execution of the painting do seem consistent, suggesting that the two artists were literally working side by side, but the general design must surely be due to Panini himself. A number of related drawings from Panini’s British Museum sketchbook would seem to support this idea: for instance, the group of horsemen and carriages in the middle distance, although minor and small in scale, closely correspond to those in Panini’s drawing.
First published in 1931, this painting and its pendant were lent to an exhibition in Florence by a certain ‘Prince Poniatowski’ from Paris. The lender is likely to have been Prince John Willard Marie-Andrée Poniatowski (1899 – 1977) who married Frances Lawrance in Paris on 27 December 1919. They had three children: Marie-André François Ladislaus (1921 – 1945), François Charles Michel Marie André (1922 – 2008), and Constance Ava Louise (1925 – 2007), and the paintings are thought to have passed by family inheritance to the latter two, in whose respective families’ possession they remained until relatively recently. When or where the paintings may have entered the Princely Poniatowski collections is unknown, although Prince John Willard Marie-Andrée’s great-great-grandfather was Prince Stanislaw Poniatowski (1754 – 1833), an avid art collector and patron. Stanislaw travelled extensively throughout Europe in 1773-75, 1784-86 and 1791-95, before settling definitively in Rome where he employed the architect Giuseppe Valadier to build his residence in the centro storico and the celebrated Villa Poniatowski. Stanislaw patronised contemporary artists – Anton Raphael Mengs, Antonio Canova, Johann Joachim Winckelmann – and sat to Angelica Kauffman on numerous occasions (see, for example, her portrait now in the Royal Castle in Warsaw; fig. 4). After Stanislaw’s death in 1833 much of his collection comprising archeological items, paintings, sculpture, drawings, bronzes, coins and medals, and objets d’art was dispersed in a series of sales, but these paintings do not figure in any of those catalogues. It seems reasonable to assume therefore that Stanislaw may have acquired the paintings in Rome and the canvases remained in family hands, passing by descent (in order) to Stanislaw’s son Józef (1816 – 1874); then to his eldest son Stanislaus August (1835 – 1908); then to his third son André (1864 – 1954); and finally to his third son John Willard Marie-André, lender to the 1931 exhibition.
We are grateful to both Prof. David Marshall and Mr. Guy Sainty for their assistance in cataloguing this lot.