«Julia Korner Fine art Trainedoriginallyasanarthistorian,sculptressandgraphicillustratoratCambridge,Julia Korner, l.S.i.a.D., ...»
When Dickens first visited Italy in 1844/45 it was still only “a geographical expression” in the immortal words of the then towering figure of European diplomacy, Prince Metternich, in a letter to Lord Palmerston. British travellers regularly perceived Italy to be frozen in the past and in poverty, trapped in decay, disease and superstition with little trace of the grandeur associated with the Classical age. Too often accommodation proved to be unsuitable and uncomfortable, the food ‘foreign’ and unappetising, the locals uncooperative and untrustworthy (“a shocking race: eaters of garlic and catchers of vermin”, in Boswell’s words) and Catholicism over-bearing and restrictive. Indeed, it is said that Clarkson Stanfield, himself a Roman Catholic and whose accomplished sketch of Trajan’s Arch, Ancona is featured in this catalogue (No. 21), so disliked Dickens’s perjorative asides on Catholicism as to withdraw from illustrating Pictures from Italy.
Dickens’s tour began at Genoa and he used a villa there as a base for his travels. Interestingly, Genoa is not a popular subject in the oeuvre of contemporary artists. Perhaps they shared Dickens’s initial impressions, recorded in the same letter to the Count D’Orsay from which we have quoted already: “Of all the mouldy, dreary, sleepy, dirty, lagging, halting God-forsaken towns, it surely must be the very uttermost superlative”. Dickens’s tour followed an idiosyncratic route, from Genoa to Piacenza, Bologna, Modena, Venice, Verona, Mantua and Milan, with a diversion into Switzerland before setting off for Rome, via Pisa and Siena: “It is such a delight for me to leave new scenes behind, and still go on, encountering newer scenes...” From Rome he went to Naples, was interested in Pompeii but more enthralled by Mount Vesuvius. His return journey took him to Florence, via Monte Cassino (whose entrance, he observed almost approvingly, was guarded by an eye-catching raven, “a sly and stealthy fellow, in looks resembling a Jesuit”), to Perugia and Florence before returning to London.
5 Our journey begins in Aosta, with William Callow’s coloured sketch of 1838 of the Arc de Triomphe (No. 12). Callow was born in the same year as Dickens (1812); like him, he had a successful, distinguished career, except that he outlived by a considerable degree all his contemporaries, with his artistic work ceasing only shortly before his death in 1908. Callow returned to Italy over five decades. He visited Verona for the first time in 1840 where he spent time recording the sights, of which the Old Bridge (No. 14) was one of his favourites.
His picture of the Italian Riviera (No. 13) dates from his last visit.
From Verona we move to Venice, then, as now, a magnet for British tourists owing to its “magnificent and stupendous reality” as Dickens remarked. Venice’s allure was, of course, magnified by John Ruskin’s descriptions and one of his coloured drawings, An Architrave, is to be found within the catalogue, No. 19. Venice is represented elsewhere, not only by the pair of capriccios by ‘Warwick’ Smith, to which reference has already been made, but also by two watercolours by William Leighton Leitch (1804-1883). A Glaswegian by birth, Leitch had a varied career as lawyers’ clerk, weaver, house painter, porcelain miniaturist, theatrical scene painter (the latter a career pursued also by his contemporaries, David Roberts and Clarkson Stanfield) before moving to London, with his family, to better his fortunes. He embarked on his first Continental tour in 1833 and found himself so captivated by Italy that he did not return to London until 1837. In due course, following an introduction by Lady Canning, he became drawing instructor to the young Queen Victoria and the Royal Family, a position he occupied for 22 years. A sketch of San Giorgio and a fuller watercolour of Santa Maria Della Salute are to be found (Nos. 16 & 17). These pictures demonstrate the ease of outline, the confident purity of colour and the impression of simple grandeur for which Leitch still is not appreciated properly.
In contrast to the more conventional pictures of Venice, the catalogue’s Florentine offering spans the centuries, with Old Master Drawings by Giovanni Bandini (St Matthew the Evangelist), a design for a bas-relief for the choir of the Duomo on whose (re)decoration the artist worked in the 1550s (No. 1), A helmet-bearing, male nude by Ludovici Cardi, known as Cigoli, a drawing once in the collections of both Jonathan Richardson Senr. and Sir Joshua Reynolds (No. 4) as well as others from the Florentine school. Twentieth Century watercolours ‘balance’ the earlier drawings. There are three mixed media studies, inspired by Renaissance imagery, by the acclaimed contemporary artist, teacher and Deputy President of the Royal Scottish Academy, Victoria Crowe RSA, RSW. Finally, we feature No. 30, Homage to Uccello, by the highly-regarded Australian artist, Donald Stuart Leslie Friend (1915-1989), a modern reworking, kindled by Friend’s visits to Italy between 1949 and 1953, of (part of) Uccello’s Battle of San Romano to be found in the Uffizi.
Roman scenes are worth an exhibition in themselves and we constrain ourselves there to providing a mixed hors d’oeuvre which encompasses A Cittadina di Roma drawn by John Thomas Serres (1759-1825) during his 1790/91 travels (No. 10); one of the original watercolours by Carl Werner of the 1848/49 (Austrian) siege of Rome, the Villa Savorelli and Battery in the Casa Merluzzo Bastion;
6 two scenes from the Roman Campagna, one a major oil by Vincenzo Cabianca (1827-1902) No. 28, the other, No. 18, an enchanting miniature of a landscape late in the day, painted by Leitch. The Campagna was one of the few landscapes, outwith Vesuvius, to excite Dickens: “Returning, by the road, at sunset! and looking, from the distance, on the course we had taken in the morning, I almost feel...as if the sun would never rise again, but looked its last, that night, upon a ruined world...”. Finally, the impact of one of Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican on John Piper is illustration No. 29: his Variation: Scene from The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple.
The last major stop on our travels is Naples and its environs, where, outwith a delightful sketch by JohnThomas Serres of a Neapolitan citizen, a companion piece to his Roman Cittadina, a variety of views is to be enjoyed. Dickens admired these sights greatly: “The finest country in the world is spread about us...whether we go by the Grotto of Posilipo...to Castel-a-Mare, with its ruined castle, now inhabited by fishermen standing in the sea upon a heap of rocks”. Castellamare by James Duffield Harding OWS (1797-1863), Ruskin’s second artistic tutor, is to be found as No. 11; whilst a brilliant scene, No. 24, shows Naples from Posillipo by Edward Alfred Angelo Goodall, who, only seven years junior to William Callow, died in the same year (1908). Elsewhere, readers will discover a view From beneath the City Walls by the wealthy, highly-talented, ‘amateur’, Hercules Brabazon Brabazon (No. 25); Morning Light in the Bay of Naples by Albert Goodwin (No. 26); and, finally, before it was ‘reclassified’ as a macellum (indoor market place), the Temple of Jupiter Serapis, Pozzuoli by the Reverend Francis Russell Nixon, (No. 23), chaplain at one time to the embassy at Naples, who became subsequently first Bishop of Tasmania, before returning to retirement amongst the Italian lakes.
Our travels to the South are almost run. We pause at Positano for an example of the ‘superb draughtsmanship’ (The Observer obituary column, 12th September, 1994) of Edgar (‘Teddy’) Millington-Drake, (No. 32), and A Scene in Amalfi by John Frederick Lewis (No. 15), prized for his later scenes of the Near East, but whose skill was demonstrated at an early age when he was employed by Sir Thomas Lawrence to add ‘animal excitement’ to the background of his portraits. Ruskin esteemed Lewis as the “greatest power in the English School”, second only to Turner.
We end our journey in Sicily, at Taormina, with John MacWhirter’s colourful and accomplished scene outside the town, No. 27, an excellent example of that which Dickens spoke elsewhere, and under other circumstances, as “resembling and refining upon nature, and presenting graceful combinations of forms and colours”.
1. Giovanni Bandini (1540-1599) Saint Matthew the Evangelist – design for the choir of the Duomo in Florence on whose (re)decoration the artist worked in the 1550s, inscribed with a ‘C’, lower left, pen, brown ink with brown wash 13 ¾ x 8 ¼ in. (35.1 x 20.6 cm.)ndini ( Previously, this drawing was shown to Dr. Roger Ward who confirmed the attribution LITERATURE Baccio Bandinelli 1496-1560, Drawings from British Collections, cat. expo. Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, 1988, p. 78 Giovanni Bandini (1540-1599) became an apprentice to the Florentine sculptor, Baccio Bandinelli, circa 1555 and his talents were recognised rapidly, with his admission, a few years later, as a member of the newly-established Accademia deli Disegno and with a commission to produce, first, sculptured figures for Michelangelo’s catafalque and, afterwards, the figure of Architecture for his tomb in Santa Croce.
Bandini worked with Bandinelli on the restoration of the Duomo and, after the latter’s death in 1560, completed the choir screen composed of bas reliefs, on which Bandinelli began work in 1547. Bandini concentrated on the western side of the screen, bringing his task there to an end in 1572. He received further commissions for the Duomo, including the head of Cosimo de Medici and the column sculptures of St James the Lesser and of St. Philip. His long association with work in the cathedral led to his nickname, Giovanni dell’Opera. Other sculpture by Bandini can be found in the gardens and palaces of Florence whilst the Metropolitan Museum in New York, holds some of his drawings within its collection.
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2. Follower of Federigo Zuccaro or Zucchero (1543-1609), last quarter of the 16th Century Saint Paul with signature ‘F. Zucchero’ pen and ink 14 x 10 in. (35.6 x 25.4 cm.) This drawing would appear to date from the last quarter of the Sixteenth Century and is close in style to the drawings of Federigo Zuccaro, a painter born in Tuscany and the younger brother of Taddeo Zuccaro. The spelling ‘Zucchero’ is found only in England or thence derived. After falling out with Pope Gregory XIII over the painting of the vault of the Cappella Paolina in the Vatican, Zuccaro was forced to flee from Rome and, after employment in France and the Netherlands, arrived in England in 1574. His name has been attached to a number of Elizabethan portraits, especially those of Queen Elizabeth herself. He certainly painted portraits of both the Queen and the Earl of Leicester and the British Museum holds two drawings also by him. After four years in England, he returned to Italy and was employed in Venice before returning to Rome to complete his work. He executed commissions for Philip II in Madrid and Gregory XIII’s successor, Sixtus V and went to live, ultimately, in Ascona where he died in 1609.
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3. Polidoro (da Caravaggio) Caldara (c. 1492-1543) Lazarus with a dog inscribed ‘Sa' Lazaro da Polidoro’ pencil, pen & brown wash with traces of another drawing verso 10 ½ x 7 (26.2 x 17.7 cm.) Polidoro (da Caravaggio) Caldara was born at Caravaggio, where he lived in poverty. He set out for Rome at the age of eighteen to seek work. There he was employed to carry mortar for the artists in the Vatican at work on frescoes for Leo X.
Intrigued by watching them copying Raphael’s designs he soon emulated them so successfully that he attracted Raphael’s attention and became his pupil. Caldara was the first of the Roman masters to employ chiaroscuro.
His designs are known today only from the etchings and engravings of Alberti and Goltzius. When Rome was sacked in 1527, Caldara went to Naples, where he was helped by Andrea de Salerna. He established a school and received many commissions for frescoes before leaving for Sicily where, in Messina he once more attained great success. His work can be found on the friezes in the Vatican, in the Louvre, Paris, and the Brera, Milan.
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4. Ludovico Cardi, also known as Cigoli (1559-1613) Portrait of a naked man seen from behind wearing a plumed helmet, his left hand leaning on a sword with inscription ‘Ludovico Cardi / detto Cigoli’ on an early mount, now set within a window and an inscription ‘Originale di Lodovico Cardi detto Cigoli’, verso pen, brown ink and wash 8 x 7 in. (20 x 18 cm.)
Jonathan Richardson, Sen (1666-1745) (L.2984) with his stamp, lower left and his inscription, verso Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) (L.2364).
Lodovico Cardi (1559-1613), also known as Cigoli, was born at Villa Castelvecchio di Cigoli, in Tuscany. He was both painter and architect, and trained in Florence. He was influenced subsequently by Santi di Tito and Barocci whose emphasis on form and colour he adopted. He moved to Rome at the turn of the Seventeenth Century and his pictures can be found in the Vatican and various Roman palaces and churches. He was well-regarded during his lifetime and apparently numbered Galileo amongst his friends. His drawings, in due course, found their way into the collections of Jonathan Richardson Senior, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence.
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