Architectural extravaganzas and views

Central Italian School, XVII - XVIII century

The view in its many forms, variants and sub-genres is certainly to be included among the subjects which met with greatest success and proliferation from the XVII century to the nineteenth, achieving a perfect synthesis of documentary realism and imaginary narrative during the XVIII century.

The spread of realistic views in Italy coincided with the arrival in Rome in 1675 of the Dutchman Gaspard van Wittel, who faithfully reproduced sweeping panoramas of the city and the Tiber, causing a decisive change in taste among patrons of art. During the XVIII century the customary Grand Tour also contributed to an increase in the production of and market for both paintings and engravings of views, particularly of Rome and its surroundings, Venice, and Naples with the archaeological sites of Herculaneum and Pompeii, purchased as souvenirs by travellers of the most various provenance.

Of the best known and valued painters of this genre working in Rome around the middle of the XVIII century, Giovanni Paolo Panini (Piacenza, 1691/92 - Rome, 1765), should be remembered for his meticulously faithful documentary illustrations of the various aspects of the city, as well as for his extravaganzas with picturesque ruins.

Typically, extravaganzas consist in the arbitrary fusion of existing ancient monuments from totally different contexts, or the invention of purely imaginary views inspired by classical monuments and architecture together with archaeological features.

Two paintings of this particular variety of view from the Mosca collection are on exhibit. The Extravaganza with Classical Ruins and Scene of the Healing of the Blind is perhaps by a follower of Alberto Carlieri (1672 - Rome - 1720 ca.), a pupil of the perspective wall painter Andrea Pozzo, who undoubtedly inspired Panini and painters of this sub-genre. Typical paintings by Carlieri include scenes from the Bible in a context of imaginary ancient ruins.

A further recurrent characteristic of architectural extravaganzas in both imaginary and realistic views is a contrast between the overpowering ruins of antiquity and the poverty of the human condition, communicated through the human figures among the magnificent ruins in Extravaganza with Classical Ruins and Figures. This aspect must have had a profound effect especially on foreign travellers, unused as they were to such historical and anthropological stratification.

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