Roman Capriccio: The Pantheon and Other Monuments

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
39 x 53 1/2 in.
Credit line
Gift of Lila Allison Lilly in memory of her husband, Josiah Kirby Lilly
Accession number
50.5
Collection
Currently On View In
William L. and Jane H. Fortune Gallery - H214

Panini was the foremost Roman view painter of the 18th century. Like Canaletto, his Venetian contemporary, he received his earliest training from a painter of theatrical scenery. The imaginary architectural perspectives of the Italian stage are not far removed from Panini's fashionable architectural fantasies. Such works combine the most famous monuments of antiquity without regard for the actual topography of Rome. This painting includes the Pantheon, the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli, the Maison Carée at Nîmes, the sarcophagus of Constantine and the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius.

Possibly Jean-Baptiste Guillaume [1729-1802], known as Abbé de Gevigney, Paris; possibly sale at (Paillet, Paris) in 1779;{1} Alexandre-Joseph Paillet [1743-1814].{2} Possibly Duke of Norfolk, Beechill, Yorkshire.{3} (Arturo Grassi, New York);{4} purchased for the Herron Art Institute, now the Indianapolis Museum of Art, in 1950.

{1} A.J. Paillet, Paris, Catalogue d’une riche Collection de Tableaux des Peintres les plus célebres des different ecoles…qui composent le cabinet de M. ***[Gevigny, Abbé de], 1-29 December 1779, no. 34 as “Jean-Paul Pannini, Deux … Tableaux …représentant ce que les Ruines de antiquités romaines.” The identification of the Abbé de Gevigny and Paillet as former owners is made by JoLynn Edwards, Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: Expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Paris 1996, pp. 236-7. The IMA painting is dated 1735, though the final digit of the date is identified as a “7” in the 1779 auction catalogue, though the subject matter description matches the view that features the colosseum. The pendant that is described in the 1779 auction catalogue does not match the IMA painting’s pendant, (50.6) which lacks the Farnese Hercules.
{2}Edwards indicates that Paillet bought 61 canvases out of the Abbé de Gevigney sale. If this painting was one of them, it was a pendant to another painting and not yet “paired” with the IMA’s other Roman Capriccio (50.6). See footnote above.
{3}This information is presumed to come from Grassi at the time of purchase, and has not been corroborated.
{4}Grassi corresponded with the IMA director, Wilbur Peat, in June 1950 about the identification of some of the sculptures depicted in this painting. Interestingly, Grassi’s wife, Cornelia Lemcke, was a native of Indianapolis, and they spent time in Indiana regularly.
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Giovanni Paolo Panini was a prolific painter of antiquarian capriccios, such as this imaginary view of Roman monuments. In this picture-and in its pendant, The Colosseum and Other Monuments, also at the IMA-he combined a selection of famous Roman buildings in an invented rural setting. Employing the scene painter's skills that he learned in Piacenza, Panini devised a composition reminiscent of a theatrical set. From left to right, the Temple of Hadrian, the Pantheon, the Temple of the Sybil at Tivoli, the Maison Carrée at Nîmes, and the Theater of Marcellus encircle the Obelisk of Thutmose III, forming an imaginary piazza. At the front of this "stage," contemporary Roman peasants interact with antiquities under the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, placed by Michelangelo on the Capitoline Hill.

Remarkable is Panini's effort to restore archeological accuracy to some of these structures by removing later architectural alterations. He removed the bell towers added by Bernini to the Pantheon's pediment, as well as walled-in sections in the arches of the Theater of Marcellus. Both restorations were finally carried out many decades later.

To a man really curious in the polite arts, Rome alone must be an inexhaustible fund of entertainment. . . .
-Philip Francis, Hints to a Traveller, 1772