PAOLO ANESI (Rome 1697 - 1773)
Paolo Anesi, a landscape painter who painted mostly capriccios, favoured compositions of reduced size and themes of the countryside and its stretches of water, nurtured by his innate love for rivers, lakes and the sea. His passion for these natural features permeated his works, resulting in light, balanced and serene compositions. This pictorial concept, based on a fundamental clarity of design reflects the lessons of Gaspar van Wittel. Indeed, past academics mistakenly attributed Anesi’s works for van Wittel, as in the case of Anesi’s earliest signed painting, the Bridge and Castel Sant'Angelo, a rare topographical scene which Anesi replicated several times.
Born in Rome, Anesi studied figure painting under the direction of Giuseppe Chiari and landscape painting with the Roman painter Bernardino Fergioni. He was accepted to the Accademia di San Luca and also became member of the Accademia dei Virtuosi al Pantheon in 1757. His early works show Venetian influences, with direct stylistic borrowings from Alessio De Marchis; later, he was inspired by the pastoral landscapes of Andrea Locatelli. He was also a friend and close collaborator of Giovanni Paolo Panini, Pompeo Batoni and Paolo Monaldi.
Anesi was greatly admired by both Italian clients and foreign travellers of the Grand Tour. He was a protégée of the Cardinal Imperiale and the Archbishop Giovanni Battista Rinuccini. Works by his hand are listed in the archives of many princely collections including the Grand Prior Cardinal Ruspoli, Prince Gerolamo Vaini of Urbino, of Cardinal Valenti Gonzaga Colonna, the Marquis Giuseppe Rondinini, and the Corsini and Barberini Princes. The Galleria Pallavicini in Rome holds four early temperas (c.1720 - 1730), one of which is signed by the artist. At the request of Marquis Camillo Massimo, Anesi frescoed views for the interiors of his estates in Roccaraso, Pisterzo and Arsoli; he also painted landscapes in collaboration with Antonio Bicchierai and Nicholas Lapiccola for Cardinal Alessandro Albani. It is also remarkable to find in his oeuvre two still lives of birds. Another patron and friend of the artist was the Florentine collector and connoisseur Francesco Maria Niccolo Gabburri.
The beautiful painting here introduced is a rare view of the coast of Lazio between Anzio and the town of Nettuno, seen in the distance at right, and provides the viewer with a near-frontal view of the magnificent Villa Costaguti, famed for its commanding location and gardens sloping down to the sea. The painting, along with its pendant, documents the papal visit in 1746 of Pope Benedict XIV to the city of Anzio. In the foreground, we see part of the procession of boats carrying various dignitaries, being rowed in the direction of Anzio. We can tell from this painting that it is the architecture and beauty of the coastline that dominates Anesi’s composition.
Villa Costaguti, also called Bellaspetto, was built around 1650 by Cardinal Vincenzo Costaguti. It was acquired by the Torlonia family in 1819 and, since 1832, has been owned by the Borghese family. At far left can be seen the more modest Villa Pamphilj and the Arsenal (no longer extant). The Villa Pamphilj was acquired by Camillo Pamphilj from the Cesi family in 1648. It passed to the Borghese in 1834 and then to the Aldobrandini family. In 1964, it became the property of the city of Anzio and today houses an archaeological museum.
This painting belonged to Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini and are recorded in several Corsini inventories of the 18th century.
View of Villa Costaguti and Villa Pamphilj between Anzio and Nettuno
Oil on canvas, 73,6 x 136,5 cm
Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini (1685-1770), Florence and Rome.
Ariccia, Palazzo Chigi, Castelli e Castellani. Viaggio attraverso le dimore storiche della
Provincia di Roma, 19 July - 20 October 2002, no. 19;
F. Petrucci, in Castelli e Castellani. Viaggio attraverso le dimore storiche della Provincia di
Roma, exhibition catalogue, Ariccia 2002, p. 52, cat. no. 19, reproduced pl. IX;
M.C. Bagolan and T. Litteri, in Vedutisti, paesaggisti e pittori di architetture a Roma nel
XVII e XVIII secolo, III Biennale di Roma, Arte e collezionismo a Palazzo Venezia, exhibition catalogue, Rome 2002, p. 70, reproduced p. 71;
F. Petrucci, in Paesaggio Laziale tra Ideale e Reale, dipiniti del XVII e XVIII secolo, exhibition catalogue, Tivoli 2009, p. 23, reproduced fig. 20.