Gaspar van Wittel called Gaspar Vanvitelli

Gaspar van Wittel called Gaspar Vanvitelli

Vanvitelli, the father of Italian eighteenth century view painting, was born as Gaspar van Wittel at Amersfoort in Holland and was 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. He Italianized his name to Vanvitelli and signed his first name as ‘Gasparo’. His 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 dagli 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 on the invitation of the Viceroy, Don Luis de la Cerda, 9th Duke of Medinaceli, 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) became one of the most important architects in Italy.

The work of Vanvitelli is represented in the Colonna Collection, Rome; the Prado, Madrid; the Thyssen-Bornmisza Museum, Madrid; the Pitti Palace, Florence; the Museo Nazionale di San Martino; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.