GASPAR VAN WITTEL called GASPARE VANVITELLI or GASPARO DAGLI OCCHIALI
Amersfoort circa 1652/4 - 1736 Rome
A view of the Bacino di San Marco, Venice, looking west towards the mouth of the Grand Canal
Oil on canvas: 20 ¾ x 42 1/8 in / 52.7 x 107 cm
Frame size: 30 x 51 in / 76.2 x 130.8 cm
Painted circa 1705
Possibly the Dukes of Medinaceli, inv. no.202
Private collection, Yorkshire, since at least the nineteenth century
Richard Green, London, 1979;
from whom bought by a private collector, Argentina;
Possibly Inventario General de Todos los trastos y Vienes Muebles Pertenecientes a la Casa del Exmo. Sr. Marques Duque de Medinaceli, mi Señor [manuscript in the archives of the Duques de Medinaceli, Seville], 1711, no.202, ‘Ziudad de Venecia Mirada desde el mar chica numo. 251.1.100 rs’
Possibly V Lleó Cañal, ‘The art collection of the ninth Duke of Medinaceli’, Burlington Magazine, vol.CXXXI, February 1989, no.1031, p.115, no.202
G Briganti, eds. L Laureati and L Trezzani, Gaspar van Wittel, Milan 1996, p.244, no.299
Born in Amersfoort circa 1652, Gaspar van Wittel arrived in Rome (possibly via Venice) around 1675, joining the cheerful association of expatriot Dutch artists known as the Schildersbent. He was based in Rome for the rest of his life, becoming highly successful for views that combine a Northern precision of execution with sparkling light and a sense of the bustling, modern life of the city. Italianising his name to Vanvitelli, he numbered among his patrons the highest Roman aristocracy, including the Colonnas, for whom he painted a series of works still on view at Palazzo Colonna.
In 1694-96 Vanvitelli visited Bologna, Florence and Venice, where according to his biographer Pascoli he ‘drew the rarest views and everywhere painted on commission various small paintings’. He stayed in Venice probably from early 1695 to late 1696; he was back in Rome by December, when the Colonnas paid him for a View of the Molo, Piazzetta and Palazzo Ducale and a View of the Bacino di San Marco (both private collection) which is similar to the present Bacino. Five preparatory drawings of Venice survive in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Rome, but none of the Bacino. Vanvitelli’s earliest dated view of the city is a painting of The Molo, the Piazzetta and the Palazzo Ducale, dated 1697, now in the Prado, Madrid, which predates by seven years the earliest known Venetian view by Luca Carlevarijs. Vanvitelli’s views both of Venice and Rome have a pioneering quality that sees him looking at the cities with the freshness of a foreigner’s eye at the dawn of the eighteenth century.
The present view of The Bacino di San Marco encompasses many of the quintessential buildings that came to define the city in the later eighteenth century view painting of Canaletto and Guardi. It is also an ambitious, complex panorama, extending from the Giudecca at far left nearly to the Piazzetta, and looking straight down the canal of the Giudecca and the Grand Canal.
At the far right, behind the large galley, is the long brick façade of the public granaries, with the fish market in front hidden by the vessel. The granaries were demolished in 1808 to make way for the Giardino Reale. Just left of centre, moulded by the soft light, are the baroque curves of Santa Maria della Salute, Baldassare Longhena’s masterpiece, begun in 1631 in thanksgiving for the delivery of Venice from the plague, and completed in 1687, not many years before this painting was made. In front of the Salute is the Dogana (customs house), designed by Giuseppe Benoni in 1677. It is surmounted by Bernardo Falcone’s bronze statues of Atlantes holding a golden globe, on which perches fickle Fortune holding a sail: a fitting image for the maritime Republic of Venice. To the right of the Salute are the buildings of the Abbazia di San Gregorio. At the far left of Vanvitelli’s painting, enveloped in sunset haze and seen just beyond the masts of more ships, is Andrea Palladio’s church of the Redentore on the Giudecca, begun in 1577. On the opposite side of the Giudecca canal, small craft are moored along the Fondamenta delle Zattere.
Vanvitelli made several other versions of this view, all showing slight differences, particularly in the shipping. Two are dated: one 1710 (private collection, Florence) and the other 1721 (see G Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, rev. edn. ed. L Laureati and L Trezzani, Milan 1996, pp.244-5, no.298-303). A previously unpublished version of this view was with Richard Green in 1999 (The Bacino di San Marco, Venice, looking west toward the mouth of the Grand Canal, signed, canvas 22 3/8 x 43 in / 56.8 x 109.2 cm; private collection, UK).
GASPAR VAN WITTEL called GASPAR VANVITELLI
Amersfoort circa 1652/4 - 1736 Rome
Vanvitelli, the father of Italian eighteenth century view painting, was born at Amersfoort in Holland and trained in nearby Utrecht by the landscape and still-life painter Matthias Withoos. Like many Dutch artists of the period, Withoos had completed his training with a visit to Italy and Vanvitelli followed in his footsteps, arriving in Rome probably in 1674. There he was welcomed by the Dutch artistic community and found employment as a draughtsman. Vanvitelli’s nickname in the Schildersbent, the association of Dutch and Flemish artists in Rome, was Piktoorts (Pitch torch).
Vanvitelli’s first dated tempera, of 1680, and first dated oil painting, of 1682, are both views of Rome. Thereafter Vanvitelli had an industrious career specialising almost exclusively in Italian views. The popularity of these with Roman aristocratic collectors, above all the Colonna family, secured the artist’s future and except for occasional and mostly brief visits to other parts of Italy, he remained in Rome for the rest of his life, becoming a citizen in 1709. Vanvitelli suffered from eye trouble in his later years, being called ‘Gaspare degli Occhiali’ on account of the spectacles he had to wear for his cataracts as early as 1704. This had no apparent adverse effect on his work, however, a Dutch meticulousness of technique being a dominant characteristic of his style to the last.
Of Vanvitelli’s visits to other parts of Italy, those to Naples were the most significant and bore the richest fruit. His first visit, made at the invitation of the viceroy, Don Luis de la Cerda, 9th Duke of Medinaceli (1660-1711), whose patronage was to be second in importance only to that of the Colonna family, lasted from 1699/1700 until 1702. Subsequently, there is some evidence that around 1704 the painter was dividing his time between Rome and Naples and he was certainly in the latter city in 1711. In that year he perversely submitted a view of Naples to the Roman Accademia di San Luca as his reception piece, and he continued to produce views of the city at least into the 1720s. He died in Rome in 1736. Vanvitelli’s son, Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773) was a renowned architect, builder of the Palazzo Reale at Caserta near Naples.
The work of Gaspar Vanvitelli is represented in the Prado, Madrid; the Pitti Palace, Florence; the Museo Nazionale di San Martino, Naples; the Pinacoteca Capitolina, Rome; Cincinnati Art Museum; Holkham Hall, Norfolk; Chatsworth House, Derbyshire and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
 See London, Robilant and Voena, Vanvitelli, 2008, text by Laura Laureati, pp.78-81, no.18 and 19, illus. in colour.
 See G Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, rev. edn. ed. L Laureati and L Trezzani, Milan 1996, p.241, no.287.