Campagna di Roma, the Alexandrine Aqueducts
Henry R. Stansfeld, Esq. (according to an old inscription, verso).
Anon. Sale; Sotheby’s, London, 30 April 1952, lot 119 (bought in).
Private Collection, UK, acquired after the above sale; thence by descent.
Edward Lear’s first visit to Italy in 1837 was sponsored by his patron Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby (1775 – 1851) and his nephew, Robert Hornby, who were concerned for his health and eager for him to visit Rome. Although Lear had travelled to the Continent with the naturalist John Gould a few years before, this was his first major trip alone and he was delighted by the ‘hurly burly of beauty and wonder’ which he encountered upon his arrival in the city (quoted in V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812 – 1888, 1985, p. 96).
Lear spent at least several weeks in Italy during each of the following ten years, passing the winters in Rome and travelling during the summer months. In 1841 he published his Views of Rome and its environs, his first book of lithographs. He spent two further winters in Rome in 1858-59 and 1859-60, so it must have been during his last visit that he made the drawing that served as the basis for all versions of this composition.
There is an old, hand-written inscription by the artist on the reverse of this painting which reads: ‘The Cento Celle on the Via Prenestina, the Alexandrian Aqueduct, & Monte Gennaro beyond, – Monte Lionessa in the distance. – Painted for Henry R. Stansfeld, Esqr – from drawings made there in 1860, by Edward Lear. – 1860’. Stansfeld is recorded as having purchased both this painting and another work from 1860, The Tiber at Ponte Molle. Other versions are known to exist, including a second version in oil painted in 1864 for Sir Walter James, Bt. (sold Christie’s, London, 11 July 1969, lot 89) and a version in watercolour with gouache heightening (sold Sotheby’s, London, 24 Nov. 2005, lot 165).
The Alexandrine Aqueduct was built by the Emperor Alexander Severus in the year AD 225. It served to bring water from a spot near Lake Regillus to Rome.