Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765) is a painter of the Baroque age who specialized in romantic paintings illustrating the grandeur that was Rome. He painted several paintings in different settings of Roman ruins. His style is to bring together many famous building and creating the illusion that you can see them all by just being in one spot. In reality these monuments and building are spread out in a large area. However he lived in an era when Popes used artists and architects like Bernini to create a theatrical setting for the urban planning of Rome. To this day no matter where you are in Rome just look around and you will be seduced by the view. This is what makes the beauty of the City. I will always remember our arrival in Rome in July 2007 when the driver taking us to our new home took the Appian Way towards the Arc of Constantine and around the Colosseum down Via dei Fori Imperiali, that was impressive and gave us right away a feel for the eternal beauty of Rome. In many ways had the Popes not hired all the numerous artists/architects/sculptors during the Renaissance to design a grand new capital by using the glorious past as a backdrop,what a missed opportunity that would have been. The point of it all was and is to impress any visitor to the City, we can only be thankful they did. The Papacy for all its flaws, did create artistic excellence.
In this painting we see the Hercule of the Farnese which was located in the Palazzo Farnese (now the French Embassy in Rome) until it was moved to the Museum of Archeology in Naples. It never stood in the Roman Forum. The Colosseum or Amphitheatre of the Flavians, as it was known since it was built under the Flavian Dynasty. On the hill the ruins of the Temple of Venus and Rome where the Temple of the Divine Claudius should stand. In the background the Basilica of Constantine and on the left the temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, none in their actual place. All of it misplaced but so romantic with the great big fragments of other buildings thrown here and there for good measure. Panini’s style will be copied by other painters of the period, it was all the rage of the time to have such grand paintings in one’s humble palace or grand home.
At the same time in England painters like Richard Wilson, the father of English landscape painting and co-founder of the Royal Academy, who had studied in Italy was painting English country landscapes. Reproducing often from memory, on canvas the soft Sun light and sky colour with drifting clouds giving the ensemble a dream like quality. Think of his painting ”A distant view of Rome from Monte Mario” painted in London years after he had left Rome. An amazing tableau and very faithful to that view of Rome.
You do need the room to go with such paintings, you just can’t hang it over the couch in your finished basement or you can visit Rome and see it for yourself.