price: U.S. $7,500


1657 — Antwerp — 1720

An Ancient Roman Wall

black chalk underdrawing, brush & gray wash. 170 x 300 mm, 65/8 x 113/4". hinged to an album sheet by Sagredo w his usual corner tabs. inscribed by the collector: P.O. no. 176.

Albums Sagredo-Borghese, now known as albums of Zaccharia Sagredo formed during mid 17th c. (L.2103a);
an unidentified collector's mark: JJS.

The inscribed initials P.O. at the lower left of the album leaf to which this drawing is attached, was meant to signify Pittori Olandese or Painter from Holland.1 However, recently, this drawing has been given to Pieter van Bloemen on the basis of its similarity to a large number of drawings executed in Rome and compiled in an album sold at auction in London.<+type+>fn<-type-><+value+><-value-><+p1+>1842<-p1-><-.~.-> 2 This seems to me correct as the treatment in brush and wash of ancient stone in walls and buildings, foliage and lilting trees is completely comparable. That album, compiled in the 18th century, contains 255 drawings of Rome and its surroundings. Many of the drawings, like the present example, are not at all formulaic but rather more personal and meaningful interpretations of the ruins that he saw. These drawings were identified as specific sites by the artist, and so it seems likely that though I cannot identify the site drawn here, it most likely existed. Studies of this nature were used as background in the artist's paintings.

After having trained as a battle painter in Antwerp and having attained the status of master at the age of 17, Pieter left for Italy. He became one of the Bambocciante in Rome, soon famous for his paintings of animals gathered in an Italianate landscape, usually a sunbathed countryside with houses or ruins. He acquired the manner of an Italian, staying in Italy until 1694. By 1699 he was the dean of the Guild of San Luc in Antwerp and trained his brother, Jan Frans. The brothers travelled together and Pieter painted the figures in J.F.'s landscapes; he collaborated with other artists as well as their figurista.

These ruins appear to be outside Rome or part of a wall around the city as there is an indication of hills beyond and a rather rough road passes by on a diagonal for entering or leaving the city.

This informal study exhibits great sensitivity and delicacy in technique. Wash drawings of this type evolved during the first quarter of the 17th c. beginning with Poelenbergh and Breenbergh. The artist's awareness of Italian light as it illuminates and shades various sections of the stone ruins is beautiful, as is his particular and varied use of the brush in depicting different types of foliage, some bending in the wind.

Several albums designated as from the Sagredo-Borhese Collections were dispersed in Lyon in 1919. The leaves contained drawings attached by corner tabs, as in the present example, and were inventoried with initails designating artist or school followed by a number. A large number of the drawings were Venetian and Roger Rearick noted in the 1980's that Zaccaria Sagredo began collecting in Venice in 1645, acquiring drawings from the studios of Veronese and Bassano shortly after 1650. Sometime after the sale in 1919, Marignane in Monte Carlo and Nicos Dicos in Lyon acquired a number of drawings from this old collection. IN 1982 the Louvre acquired ten Veronese drawings from this collection. Others acquired by Dicos appeared on the market in Paris after his death. Where the present drawing has been exactly I do not know.


Sagredo inscribed initials and numbers after mounting his drawings w corner tabs.


See Sotheby's London 6 Jul 2005, sale LO5040, lot 138.