Rome 1819 — 1902 ?
Ruins at the Villa Adriano, Tivoli
oil on paper laid down to card which in turn is attached to another card. 121/4 x 18" (310 x 455mm).
The Villa Adriano was often depicted by foreign artists in Italy mesmerized by the ruins of Antiquity and the stunning landscape. In this rare and splendid version by a native Italian painter, the artist has captured all the mystery and beauty of the site. Dense with foliage shrouding the architecture, this painting shows how by cleverly employing color, contrasting values, light and texture, an artist brings his subject to life. The loaded brush leaves paint thick enough to reflect light - on leaves and architecture, while thin paint in the foreground allows either a finger tip or a dry(?) brush to move through it to very different effect.
This last technique, for one, points to the artist Giovanni-Battista Camuccini, son of the Neoclassical painter Vincenzo Camuccini who was a primary figure in the early 19th century Roman art world, indeed known throughout Europe. Several oil sketches in the John Gere Collection presently on loan to the National Gallery, London,1 employ this method in the foreground of moving the brush through especially thin paint or using the fingertip instead of a brush. I have not come across many other artists who employ this technique and they, like Vinchon and even Valenciennes, the master of plein aire painting, do not share other similarities with the present artist's work.2 These include a particular manner of painting shrubbery and trees, disposed closely and densely. See for example, in Camuccini's Arricia,3 the same technique in laying in the leaves and the colors, as in the present work. It is also found in the background foliage of A Fallen Tree Trunk and Landscape with Trees and Rocks.4 And there are other comparable works in London,5 and at the Met in NY part of the Thaw Collection.6
The Gere paintings came from the Camuccini family collection by descent, found at the family villa in Cantalupo in the Sabine Hills around 1980. It is possible the present painting came from there as well.
G-B Camuccini took over his father's studio after the latter's illness in 1842. Earlier he had met the artist Giovanni Costa (1826-1903) who probably introduced him to a naturalistic approach to landscape. Yet it was not until the late 1830's that Camuccini painted en plein air, after his contact with Giovannibattista Bassi who specialized in that process.7 Strangely, Italian artists were rarely part of the plein air movement. Camuccini's last dated painting was of 1852, the year of Bassi's death. Afterwards he became involved in maintaining the family properties and collections.
Christopher Riopelle and Xavier Bray, A Brush with Nature, National Gallery, London, 2003, pp. 46-51, cat. #'s 9-11, illus.
Not much is known of Vinchon's Italian landscape sketches, but some examples had shown up at auction in Lyons which were later exhibited in NY in 1999 by Simon Dickenson at Newhouse Galleries. These were quite different from the present work. And Valenciennes' work is quite different with many landscape sketches presently attributed to him.
Riopelle and Bray, op.cit. pp. 46-47.
Riopelle and Bray, op.cit. pp.48-51.
A Stone Wall in the National Gallery, London, for instance.
See the Met's web-site under Camucini. There are 3 works in oil on paper, 2 that are technically comparable.
Giovanni Battista Camuccini, Oil Sketches of the Roman Countryside, 1840's, France, 2000, unpaginated.