18th & 19th Century European Paintings & Watercolours
Paolo Antonacci opened his gallery in via del Babuino 141/a, Rome in 1998.
Coming from a long line of Roman antique dealers, he had worked for over twenty years in the prestigious Rome and London galleries belonging to his father Giuseppe, a very well-known international antiquarian.
Right from the start Paolo’s new gallery distinguished itself for the expertise and attention devoted to paintings from the period between the late Eighteenth century to the first half of the Twentieth century, with a particular regard for the Vedutismo.
Since its first publication in 1998 of a catalogue devoted to landscape views of the Grand Tour, the gallery has annually published a volume devoted, each time, to a different aspect of the subject.
Among these we recall here the catalogues about the Roman Carnival and the Golden Age of Danish Artists in Rome in the Nineteenth Century. The latter publication led the Municipality of Rome to charge Paolo Antonacci with curating the exhibition of Danish artists present in Nineteenth century Rome which was organized for the visit of Queen Margrethe of Denmark.
The gallery has also opened its spaces to exhibitions by contemporary artists and, over the years, it has developed a particular interest in the less-known sector of the antique photographs of the Nineteenth century.
The gallery participates in major antiques fairs such as the Biennale of Palazzo Corsini in Florence, the Biennale d’Arte at Palazzo Venezia in Rome and the International Antique Show at Palazzo della Permanente in Milan. The gallery is regularly present at prestigious international fairs such as the Masterpiece in London, the TEFAF Maastricht (painting section) and the Highlights in Munich.
In 2013, Paolo Antonacci has participated at the Master Drawings Week in New York and, in the late Spring of the same year, the gallery held a major exhibition focused on the collection of Danish and Roman Nineteenth century paintings from the collection of Mr Jørgen Birkedal Hartmann.
Over the years, Paolo Antonacci has forged strong relationships with many national and international collectors, scholars and museum curators. He has sold important pictures to the major Roman museums such as the Museo di Roma, the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, the Musei Vaticani, the Museo del Corso, the American Academy of Rome, the Sovrintendenza per il Polo Museale Fiorentino in Florence and to many others significant institutions and private collections.
William Bell Scott (Edinburgh, 1811 – Penkill Castle, Ayrshire, 1890), Study for “The Fatal Sisters Select the Doomed at the Battle”, Pencil on paper; 788 x 1525 mm.
Fatal sisters is the title of a famous poem by Thomas Gray dated 1768 and inspired by both the Roman myth of the three Parcae – divinities that choose men’s fates – and by the north European medieval tradition. Our sheet is based on this poetic vein and it depicts the moment in which the three Parcae – here depicted as young women – decide which destiny to assign to the various warriors in battle. It is most probably a preparatory sketch for a painting exposed by Scott at one of the annual exhibitions of the British Institution between 1851 and 1852 , which has gone missing. A reference to the painting by Scott with this title appeared on the magazine The Scotsman in 1852, in Lady Pauline Treveylan’s review on the annual painting exhibition at the Royal Scottish Academy. The sheet was part of the artist’s collection in his Scottish house: the Penkill Castle in Ayrshire. Scott was both a poet and a painter and lived with his companion Alice Boyd in this castle – visited by many pre-Raphaelite artists such as William Morris, Dante Gabriele Rossetti and Arthur Hughes.
Poet, narrator and painter – William Bell Scott was born on September 12, 1811 in Edinburgh. He was brother of the painter and printer David Scott, with whom he attended the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. During his youth, he worked for his father Robert (1777-1841) – an engraver. William joined the Pre-Raphaelites movement and the historical-religious subjects of his paintings fully reflect the principles shared by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1831, Scott went to London for a few months to study and copy ancient sculptures at the British Museum, for then settling in definitively in 1837. His first painting entitled The Old English Ballad Singer dates back to 1838: the year when it was exposed at the British Institution. Around 1855 he executed eight large life-size paintings of the history of the Northumberland – commissioned by Sir Walter Treveylan. He completed this decoration in 1863-4 with the addition of 18 oils on canvas linked to the themes of the ballad of Chevy Chase. In 1859, Scott began an intimate friendship with miss Boyd of Penkill Castle (Perthshire) which lasted until his death. He painted a series of scenes that illustrated the King’s Quair (the “King’s Book”, a 15th century epic poem attributed to Jack I of Scotland) under her commission, a means to decorate the walls of a circular staircase. In his last years, Scott dedicated himself to his memoires which were edited after his death in two volumes entitled: Autobiographical Notes of the Life of William Bell Scott (1892). He died in 1890 at the Penkill Castle.
English School (First quarter of the 19th century), Elegant Figures admiring the Ruins of Tintern Abbey, Oil on canvas; 180 x 120 cm.
Our painting depicts the ruins of the Abbey of Tintern, situated in South-Eastern Wales, on the shores of the Wye River.
This subject was particularly loved by the North European romantic painters such as Samuel Grimm, Edward Dayes, Samuel Colman, William Turner, Thomas Girtin, Carl Gustav Carus and John Warwick Smith, who depicted it innumerable times.
Our view emphasizes the soaring gothic pilasters that held the vaults of the ancient abbey, romantically covered by vegetation that for centuries surrounded the vertical structures.
Later on in 1914 the vegetation was eradicated during a restoration of the site.
This picture can be attributed to Samuel Colman (1780-1845), given its resemblance with another painting that depicts the Abbey from almost the same angle. Samuel Coleman (who also signed himself as Coleman) was a protestant artist who belonged to the “British School”, and who specialized in genre paintings also referred to as “apocalyptic”, given that he particularly cherished biblical subjects. His works are exposed at the Tate Britain in London and at the Yale Center for British Art.
A similar point of view is also in two watercolors by W. Turner dated 1794 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and British Museum - Lloyd Bequest collection) and in the painting by S. H. Grimm at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
The Cistercian site of Tintern was edified in 1131 and demolished in the 16th century by Henry VIII’s will. It has been one of the most famous medieval monastery complexes of Great Britain.
The “ruined” aspect of the monastery has always conferred it a peculiar charm – especially esteemed by the literates and romantic artists.
Other than Reverend William Gilpin ’s description of the abbey which dates back to 1783 (he was among the pioneers of the term picturesque), William Wordsworth also consecrated the valley of Tintern and Wye River as topos of romantic imagery in 1798.
Christoph Heinrich Kniep (Hildesheim, Germany, 1755 - Naples 1825), Ulysses Bids Farewell to Circes, Ink and brown watercolour on paper; 655 x 935 mm., Signed and dated on the lower left: C. Kniep 1797
Christoph Heinrich Kniep
Our watercolor, signed and dated 1797, depicts the Homeric scene of Ulysses and his crew’s departure from Circes’ island.
This is a companion piece to another of Kniep’s watercolors, and also belonging to the Galleria Paolo Antonacci, which depicts the episode of Ulysses and Calypso.
Other two of his watercolors, dated 1805, that resemble our two 18th century Homeric scenes, can be found at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. One of them depicts the same subject of our watercolor and had been wrongly linked to the other Homeric episode where Ulysses bids farewell to Nausicaa.
Recently, in occasion of the edition of the catalogue of Kniep’s works edited by Georg Striehl (Hildesheim, Zurich, New York, 1998), the aforementioned early 19th century watercolor was re-interpreted to Ulysses’ farewell to Circes.
By comparing our version to the one exposed in Berlin, what emerged is that Kniep had initially inserted a tame lion, which he then substituted with a snake in his re-elaboration.
The presence of the lion next to the woman and not far from the lambs is an additional element that gives credibility to Strielh’s interpretation.
Christoph Heinrich Kniep (Hildesheim, Germany, 1755 – Naples, 1825), Ulysses and Calypso, Ink and brown watercolour on paper; 655 x 935 mm. Signed on the lower left: Ch. Kniep inv.
Christoph Heinrich Kniep
Signed on the lower left: Ch. Kniep inv.
Our unpublished watercolor depicts the Homeric episode of Ulysses’ last lunch in Ogygia (The Odyssey, V, vv. 247-255), when Calypso – despite being in love with Ulysses – agrees to help the hero continue his journey towards Ithaca upon a raft.
This is a companion piece to another of Kniep’s watercolors, signed and dated 1797, also belonging to the Galleria Paolo Antonacci, which depicts Ulysses’ departure from Circe’s island.
Calypso, daughter of Atlas, lived on the island of Ogygia in a cave that faced lush gardens and a sacred grove. She was described as a beautiful and immortal woman, who kept Ulysses on her island for seven years until Zeus, through Hermes, ordered her to release him.
Other two of his watercolors, dated 1805, that resemble our two 18th century Homeric scenes, can be found at the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. One of them depicts the same subject of our watercolor and had been wrongly linked to the other Homeric episode of Ulysses’ lunch with Nausicaa.
Recently, in occasion of the edition of the catalogue of Kniep’s works edited by Georg Striehl (Hildesheim, Zurich, New York, 1998), the aforementioned early 19th century watercolor was re-interpreted to Ulysses’ lunch with Calypso, and the naturalistic background was compared to the karst caves of the Bonea Valley in Campania, Italy.
Kniep inserted a snake on the lower left margin of our watercolor, which is absent in the 1805 version exposed in Berlin.
In both versions, it is possible to detect a couple of swans on the foreground, symbol of conjugal love and purity. One of them holds a snake in his beak – a symbol of Ulysses’ patience and faithfulness – as he refused the gift of immortality from Calypso to return to his beloved Penelope.
James Murray, Great Britain, 1819 - 1898,
The Mall Chambers, Kensington Mall, London
Pencil, ink and brown watercolour on paper; 630 x 870 mm
Our watercolour is a view drawn by the architect James Murray, of the famous ‘Mall Chambers’.
He was also the author of the project of this Victorian building in Kensington Mall.
The characteristic arched brick building can still be found today in the borough of Kensington.
The building was constructed between 1865 and 1868 by the ‘Lucas brothers’, to be destined to the working-class families.
The composition is animated by figures, some in elegant dresses and others in working attitudes.
The five-story building with a corner entry and double-triple arches was strongly desired and financed by the ‘Model Dwellings Companies’ (MDCs) – the group of private businesses that attempted to improve the living conditions of Great Britain’s working class during the Victorian époque.
An engraving taken from our watercolour has been published on January 25th 1868 on the magazine "The Illustrated London News" together with an article regarding the new constructions in London.
Great Britain, 1819 – 1898
James Murray was the pupil and the main assistant of the architect Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) famous most of all for his role in the reconstruction, during the mid 19th century, of the Houses of Parliament destroyed by fire in 1834.
In 1851 James Murray became Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects and thanks to his master Charles Barry, in 1867 he was also qualified as Fellow of this prestigious professional institution.
At the time of our watercolour his office was in 25, Portman Street.
According to some experts, most of the architectural drawings attributed to Barry are probably works of his fellow Murray.
In the Archive of the Royal Institute of British Architects there are some drawings and design studies by Murray that depict buildings planned by Charles Barry like the church of Saint Peter in Brighton, the Harewood House in West Yorkshire; the Big Ben in London and some other housing buildings like Kensington Palace Gardens, Kiddington Hall, the Traveller’s Club in Pall Mall.
Most of these drawings were commissioned by Sir Samuel Morton Peto (1809-1889), who at the time was an eminent landlord of London and also a Member of Parliament.