Giovanni Battista 'Titta' Lusieri was one of Italy's great landscape artists, a watercolourist in Rome at a time when when the medium was rarely embraced by Italians.
Panoramic view of Rome from Piazza San Pietro in Montorio on the Janiculum: From the Capitoline Hill to the Aventine Hill, with Trastevere in the foreground, the gardens of the convent of San Callisto and San Michele by Giovanni Battista Lusieri, c. 1778
© British Museum
- Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour
- 55.2 x 97.8 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £141,000 ( Total: £361,875; Export stopped)
- Acquired in:
- Private vendor
He was widely praised in his lifetime – Sir William Forbers, a Grand Tourist, said that 'his Landscapes in transparent Water-Colours are the most eloquent transcriptions of nature I ever saw finished with a truth and at the same time a delicacy that is really wonderful ' – yet within a few years of his death he had faded into obscurity. Lusieri's popularity had always been greater in Britain than in his home country – perhaps because British artists like Alexander Cozens and Francis Towne had created a market for watercolours in Britain that wasn't yet extant in Italy. His appeal to British tastes resulted in the patronage of several British aristocrats including Lord Elgin, who appointed Lusieri as his chief agent, which results in the artist overseeing the removal of the Parthenon marbles from the Acropolis. Historically, Lusieri's greatest impact is as 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. Lusieri's Panoramic View of Rome from Piazza San Pietro 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. They were commissioned by Philip Yorke, Lusieri's first significant British patron, during his stay in Rome between 1778 and 1779. 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.
This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.
Bought or commissioned by Philip Yorke; by descent; sold Christie's, 2013 to a private collector.