Franz Ludwig Catel

Franz Ludwig Catel
(Berlin 1778 - 1856 Rome)

View of Tivoli, c.1825

Oil on zinc, 14 x 20 cm

Dr. Andreas Stolzenburg, Hamburg, will include the painting in his forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Catel’s work.

 

We are grateful to Dr. Andreas Stolzenburg for this catalogue entry.

Franz Ludwig Catel has chosen a viewpoint looking south from the lower slopes of Monte Catillo towards the ancient town of Tivoli. This viewpoint appears to be located at a point along what is now the Via Quintilio Varo.[1] The observer’s eye is led across the deep gorge of the Aniene River towards the northern tip of Tivoli. The buildings are perched on the brow of a rocky spur. At the center of the image, mist rises from a waterfall. Just above it, but hidden from view, stand the ruins of the Villa of Maecenas. There is a touch of asymmetry in the way the sides of the gorge fall away, opening up a small section of distant landscape – a view towards the Roman Campagna and the Colli Albani on the far horizon. In the foreground, a road curves across the image. A group of tall trees stands at the left. The staffage is limited to a fashionably dressed couple taking a stroll and a rustic couple with a donkey.

This small painting, executed in oil on a small sheet of zinc, is unmistakably identifiable as an autograph work by the Berlin painter Franz Ludwig Catel. In 1811, Catel moved to Rome, where he was to live and work for the rest of his life. The ductus, the partial use of heavy impasto, the handling of light and the summary treatment of the staffage figures are entirely consonant with the stylistic character of his work.

In 1812, Catel made his first visit to Naples. This trip was followed by an extensive stay in Calabria in the summer. By 1813-14, he was very probably undertaking painting expeditions to sites outside Rome but it was not until 1820 that the unique topography of Tivoli would appear in his work.[2] In terms of motif, the present landscape[3] bears very close comparison with a painting executed by him around 1830-31 and now in the Museum Folkwang in Essen. It, too, depicts a view across the gorge of the Aniene River towards Tivoli.[4]

The landscape, with its delicate fluidity of touch – as shown by the filigree network of foliage fanning out against the blue of the sky and applied with what appear to be quick, transparent touches of the brush – has all the hallmarks of a plein-air oil study. Catel’s use of zinc as a support indicates, however, that the work can only have been painted in his studio on the Piazza di Spagna and intended as an affordable memento for a Grand Tourist to Rome. The exact date of execution cannot be established but an approximate dating of between 1825 and 1840 may be posited.

 


[1] Comparison can be made with a drawing by Claude Lorrain (1600 or 1604/05-1682) executed around 1646. It depicts a view of Tivoli from a slightly different vantage point, looking west towards Rome rather than south towards the Colli Albani; see Andreas Stolzenburg and David Klemm (eds.), Das Licht der Campagna. Die Zeichnungen Claude Lorrains aus dem British Museum London, exhib. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle, Petersberg 2017, pp. 82-3, no. 14.

[2] See Andreas Stolzenburg and Hubertus Gaßner (eds.), Franz Ludwig Catel. Italienbilder der Romantik, exhib. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle, Petersberg 2015, pp. 280-3, nos. 91-94.

[3] A very similar, unpublished oil sketch, also painted on a small zinc sheet, remained in the artist’s estate and is now held by the Fondazione Catel in Rome.

[4] Op. cit., 2015, p. 283, no. 93.

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