This elegant view is by Antonio Joli, the celebrated painter of vedute and capricci, who traveled widely throughout Italy, England and Spain, before settling in Naples, where he became painter to Charles VII of Naples (1716-1788). When the latter succeeded to the Spanish throne in 1759, Joli continued to work for his successor, Ferdinand IV (1751-1825).
This painting, like many others executed by Joli for the Bourbon court, was no doubt originally intended to testify to the beauty of the Neapolitan landscape and the tranquility of life under Bourbon rule. In the present picture, for instance, a Bourbon King, probably Ferdinand IV, can be seen at center in the foreground; a Capuchin monk kneels before him, and all around them horses, dogs, and well-dressed figures enjoy the pleasant grounds.
Between 1738 and 1748 Charles VII of Naples built a royal palace at Portici, a town at the foot of Mount Vesuvius about eight kilometers southeast of Naples. It is from the gardens of this palace that the present view is taken, through a group of statuesque oak trees, probably at an altitude of about 150 to 200 meters. The city of Naples in the background, painted with meticulous attention to topographical detail, helps clarify the dating of the painting. The Topographical map of the city of Naples by Giovanni Carafa, Duke of Noja, which inspired paintings by a number of contemporary artists and from which Joli was certainly working, was published after the Duke's death in 1768. At that point, however, the map still included several topographical errors that were not corrected until it was reissued in 1775. The present lot repeats these errors and can thus be dated to the intervening years (see M. Furnari, 'Urbis Neapolitanae Delineatio' in S. Cassani, op. cit., p. 51).
Toledano supports this dating between 1768 and 1775, citing an atmospheric sensibility that characterizes the last phase of Joli's career. He notes in particular the poetic sfumato of the finely detailed view of the city in the background, which evokes a misty Neapolitan afternoon (R. Toledano, op. cit., p. 301). Including the present lot, six versions of this composition are known, all considered autograph. The other five are in the Museo di San Martino, Naples (inv. 23925); the Banca Intesa collection, Rome; a private collection, Florence; with Sestieri, Rome; and in an Anonymous sale, Christie's, Milan, 25 May 2011 (EUR 605,600). The last picture, considerably earlier than the other five, is signed and dated '1760'. The various versions diverge slightly in their arrangements of the foreground figures, though all include the Bourbon King and kneeling monk. They also differ, as Middione notes, in the portrayal of the trees; in the present lot, for instance, the lack of leaves may signify that the view represents a moment in late autumn or winter.
Dorothy Hammerstein, who owned this painting in the 1970s and 1980s, was a renowned interior designer and the wife of Oscar Hammerstein, of the wildly successful musical theater writing team Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein composed the music and lyrics to some of the most iconic works of the golden age of musical theatre, including Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959).
N. Spinosa and L. di Mauro, Vedute napoletane del Settecento, Naples, 1989, p. 193, no. 74, fig. 78 (with erroneous date listed for Sotheby's sale).
S. Cassani, ed., All'ombra del Vesuvio: Napoli nella veduta europea dal Quattrocento all'Ottocento, exhibition catalogue, Naples, 12 May-29 July, 1990, pp. 51, 400 (with erroneous date listed for Sotheby's sale).
L. Salerno, I Pittori di vedute in Italia (1580-1830), Rome, 1991, p. 253, under no. 39.
R. Middione, Antonio Joli, Soncino, 1995, p. 116, under no. 39 (with erroneous date listed for Sotheby's sale).
M. Manzelli, Antonio Joli: Opera pittorica, Venice, 1999, p. 79, no. 35 (with erroneous date listed for Sotheby's sale).
R. Toledano, Antonio Joli: Modena 1700-1777 Napoli, Turin, 2006, p. 302, N.II.2.
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
With Frost & Reed, London, 1970.
Oscar and Dorothy Hammerstein; (†), Sotheby's, New York, 14 January 1988, lot 45, where purchased by the father of the present owners.
About Antonio Joli
Antonio Joli’s oeuvre includes paintings that feature sharply rendered views of Italy’s architectural marvels and sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea. One of Italy’s premier vedute (detailed renderings of places) and capricci (fictitious architectural settings) painters, Joli was born in Modena and enjoyed a peripatetic existence, studying in Rome with Giovanni Paolo Pannini and later working in Spain and Venice. Joli’s landscapes and architectural paintings take viewers to panoramic outlooks that highlight the magnanimity of human existence against a backdrop of majestic Mediterranean scenery. He enlivened his paintings with human activity, imbuing each cluster of figures and animals with a vibrancy and sense of narrative.
Italian, ca. 1700 - 1777, Modena, Italy, based in Naples, Italy