A capriccio view of Rome with the Ponte Sant'Angelo, the Castel Sant'Angelo and Saint Peter's, the Arch of Constantine in the foreground oil on canvas 85.6 x 131.5 cm. (33 5/8 x 51¾ in.)
PROVENANCE: Acquired by the present owner in 1962
In a letter to the present owner, dated 7 May 1963, Michael Levey (then Assistant Keeper at the National Gallery, London) wrote 'From the photograph I should judge your picture to be a handsome example of Carlevaris (sic) and probably an early work, though the question of his chronology is not altogether easy. Your picture seems to have stylistic affinities with the paintings by Carlevaris in the Royal Collection and I think these pictures, which show caprice views of Rome, are probably to be dated very early in the 18th century.'
Levy's view that this is an early work has since been confirmed by the appearance on the art market in 1996 of a very similar, but larger capriccio view, which like the present work was hitherto unrecorded. The latter painting, which measures 131.5 x 289 cm. and is signed with initials 'L.C.' comprises elements of the same composition, including the Arch of Constantine, viewed from the same oblique angle, and the Castel Sant' Angelo (Christie's, London, 19 April, 1996, lot 253). Dario Succi, dates this and its companion, which together represent the fruits of peace and the destructive effects of war, to circa 1705 by comparison with the Capriccio of a Seaport, dated 1706, in the Accademia Carrara, Bergamo, and the Arrival of the French Ambassador Henri-Charles Arnauld, Abbé de Pomponne at the Doge's Palace, 10 May 1706 on loan from the Rijksdienst Beeldende Kunst to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. This places them in the middle of Carlevarijs's decade of greatest creativity. While little is known of his work before he had reached the age of forty, in 1703 he had published his highly influential set of 104 engravings, Le Fabriche, e Vedute di Venezia and in 1704 he is first recorded as a painter of views. By the end of the decade he had executed the masterpieces now at Birmingham, Scleissheim, and Frederiksborg, in the J. Paul Getty Museum at Malibu and in the Lehman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The present painting was bought by the current owner in 1962 from a Hampshire dealer, who had acquired it from a house at Shawford, near Twyford, Hampshire. The exact location is not known, but one possibility is Shawford House, home of the Mildmay family from the mid 17th century until the 19th century when the property and estate were sold to tenants of Jane St John Mildmay. It is known that a cousin of the Hampshire Mildmays, William Mildmay (circa 1705-71) of Moulsham Hall near Chelmsford, Essex went on the Grand Tour between 1730 and 1731, travelling through Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Rome and Naples and finally Venice, (see John Ingamells, A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800, 1997). Owing to a lack of direct heirs, Moulsham Hall and its contents were subsequently inherited by Jane Mildmay (1765-1857) of the Hampshire branch of the family, and the house itself was pulled down in 1816. The Hampshire Mildmay records list various Roman views by 'Canaletti' and 'Panani' (sic); whilst a Shawford House source can only be conjecture, it may explain the presence of an unrecorded, early Carlevarijs painting in Hampshire.