Gaspar van Wittel called Gaspar Vanvitelli

The Bacino di San Marco, Venice, looking west towards the mouth of the Grand Canal

Oil on canvas: 22.4(h) x 42(w) in /

56.8(h) x 106.7(w) cm

Signed lower right: GASPAR VAN WITEL

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CL 3147



Amersfoort circa 1652/4 – 1736 Rome


The Bacino di San Marco, Venice, looking west towards the mouth of the Grand Canal

Signed lower right: GASPARO VAN WITEL

Oil on canvas: 22 3/8 x 43 in / 56.8 x 109.2 cm

Frame size: 31 ½ x 52 in / 80 x 132.1 cm

Painted circa 1720


Admiral Richard Purefoy FitzGerald Purefoy, CBE, MVO (1862-1943), Shalstone Manor, Buckinghamshire

Rothschild & Co., 1944

Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd, London, 1944-46

GW Thoman

Leger Galleries, London, circa 1948

Private collection, UK

Richard Green, London, 1999;

Private collection, UK

Although he spent most of his life in Rome, Vanvitelli made several trips to northern Italy in the early 1690s. He probably visited Venice for the first time in 1694. His earliest dated view of the city is a painting of The Molo, the Piazzetta and the Doge’s Palace, dated 1697, now in the Prado, Madrid, which predates by seven years the earliest known Venetian view by Luca Carlevarijs (see G Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, Milan 1996, p.241, no.287). Vanvitelli’s views both of Venice and Rome have a pioneering quality that sees him looking at the cities with the freshness of a foreigner’s eye at the dawn of the eighteenth century.

The present view of The Bacino di San Marco encompasses many of the quintessential buildings that came to define the city in the later eighteenth century view painting of Canaletto and Guardi. At the far right is the Doge’s Palace, with the Piazzetta and Libreria Marciana, designed by Jacopo Sansovino in 1537. To the left of the library is the Zecca (mint) and the long brick façade of the public granaries, with the fish market in front; the granaries were demolished in 1808 to make way for the Giardini Reali.

Just left of centre, catching the soft light, are the baroque curves of Santa Maria della Salute, Baldassare Longhena’s masterpiece, begun in 1631 in thanksgiving for the delivery of Venice from the plague, and completed in 1687. In front of the Salute is the Dogana (customs house), designed by Giuseppe Benoni in 1677, and surmounted by Bernardo Falcone’s bronze statues of Atlantes holding a golden globe. At the far left of Vanvitelli’s painting, enveloped in sunset haze and seen through the masts of a ship, is Andrea Palladio’s church of the Redentore on the Giudecca, begun in 1577. In front of the Zecca is moored the gold and red Bucintoro (state barge), used to transport the Doge to the ceremony of wedding the sea on Ascension Day.

Vanvitelli made several other versions of this view, all showing slight differences, particularly in the shipping. Two are dated: one 1710 (private collection, Florence) and the other 1721 (Briganti, op. cit., pp.244-5, no.298-303).


Amersfoort circa 1652/4 – 1736 Rome

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.

Old MasterGaspar van Wittel called Gaspar Vanvitelli