British Museum acquires pioneering Lusieri landscape

A panoramic view of 18th-century Rome by the Italian watercolourist Giovannia Battista Lusieri has been bought by the British Museum with support from the Art Fund.

Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Panoramic view of Rome: Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill, c. 1778–1779 British Museum

Giovanni Battista Lusieri, Panoramic view of Rome: Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill, c. 1778–1779

Giovanni Battista 'Titta' Lusieri was one of Italy's great landscape artists,  yet within a few years of his death he had faded into obscurity. Lusieri was a watercolourist in Rome at a time when the medium was rarely embraced by Italians – as a result, he was more popular in Britain than in his home country.

Lusieri was one of the pioneers of 'panoramania', the fetish for panoramic cityscapes that swept through Europe and America at the end of the 18th century. The Panoramic view of Rome and its accompanying views are Lusieri's earliest known works in the genre, representing a key moment in the development of tastes in Western art.

The painting is one of three surviving views from a four-sheet watercolour panorama of Rome, depicting the Italian capital at different times of day from morning to evening. It depicts Rome seen from the Janiculum, a hill to the west of the city, looking eastwards towards the Capitoline and Aventine hills.

In the foreground, the lengthening shadows can be seen in the gardens of the Convent of San Callisto and San Michele, while the city's roofscape spans the full width of the middle distance, from the campanale of the Palazzo del Senatore on the left to the churches of S. Sabina and S. Alessio on the right.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: 'It is wonderful news that this mesmerising work will stay in the UK and enter a public collection with which it has tremendous resonance.  The work is a very important addition to the British Museum’s holdings of 18th-century Italian drawings as well as finding relevance within the museum’s wider collections relating to Rome.  The Art Fund is delighted to have supported this acquisition.'

The work will go on display from 12 December in Room 90 at the British Museum, alongside a second watercolour by Lusieri showing the Tiber valley from Monte Mario.

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British Museum Great Russell Street London WC1B 3DG 020 7323 8299 www.britishmuseum.org

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