postcards from rome

There is a reason why Rome is called “The Eternal City” and a good example are two opposite views of the Capitoline Hill, one of the seven hills that surround the city, imminently coming up for auction at Sotheby’s Old Master Paintings sale in New York.
In a way, I like thinking of these as postcards from another era.

In a time without photography, artists could make a good living drawing and painting detailed scenes for tourists.  Fleming Louis de Caullery’s (1582-1621) painting view is of the relatively new development of the Campidoglio in Rome, completed in 1549 after the 1536 designs by Michelangelo.  I can imagine the heir to an English title bringing back this image to show his papa how the Eternal City had changed since he had made his own Grand Tour.  Those familiar with the spot will note that the column to the left does not exist – a little artistic license?
The wonderful drawing by French artist Victor Jean Nicolle (1754-1826) is an absolute riot of activity and detail.  Figures clamor over the image highlighting the monumentality of the piazza.  This study is a perfect snapshot of the space in that every detail is precisely where it should be.  While artists such as Hubert Robert would often “create” scenes by mixing the best of Roman monuments into a single frame (called “capriccio”), Nicolle has faithfully given us a glimpse into 18th century Rome.
It’s fun to see how things have changed and yet how they are still exactly the same.  Who would guess there were 200 years between these two artists and another 200 from them to our own time?
image credit: Sotheby’s, New York.

> lot 231, Louis de Caullery, A view of the Campidoglio, Rome, oil on panel. Estimate US$ 60,000 – 80,000.  Important Old Master Paintings and Sculpture . To be sold on 31 January 2013.
> lot 139, Victor Jean Nicolle, A view of the Campidoglio, Rome, a drawing. Estimate US$4,000 – 6,000. Property from the Estate of Giancarlo Baroni.  To be sold on 29 January 2013.
The entire sale is open for public view from 25-30 January 2013.