Rosa was much sought after for his landscapes, but his ambition was to succeed as a history painter. One of Rosa’s best pictures, this is a highly poetic visualization of a celebrated literary source about the foundation of Rome, Virgil’s Aeneid. Aeneas sleeps on the banks of the river Tiber at night. "And there appeared to him the God of the place, old Tiber himself, who arose from his pleasant stream amid poplar leaves. A fine linen clothed him in gray raiment, and shady reeds covered his hair. Then he spoke to Aeneas, and assuaged all his care with his words . . . . ‘This spot shall be the place for your city.’"
This rarely depicted subject is described in Virgil's Aeneid (Book VIII, 26–65): After Aeneas's arrival in Latium, the hero, "his heart troubled by woeful war, stretched him on the bank under the sky's chill cope, and let late sleep steal over his limbs." As he slumbered the god of the river Tiber emerged from the water and appeared to him, raising "his aged head amid the poplar leaves; thin lawn draped him in a mantle of grey, and shady reeds crowned his hair." The river god proceeded to foretell Aeneas's victory and future foundation of Rome. In Rosa's painting, Aeneas is fast asleep in the cold moonlight, dressed in shining armor and silvery fabrics and resting on his helmet and sword. Above him "cerulean Tiber" comes into view, his hair covered in reeds and his drapery billowing in the night's wind. The scene is a lyrical depiction of the encounter of the Trojan champion and the ancient river; the two figures take up most of the canvas with their sculptural forms. Aeneas's languid pose is contrasted with the commanding gesture of the Tiber, pointing in the direction of King Evander and his city of Pallanteum, the future site of Rome. The figure of Tiber would become the model for John Cheere's 1751 sculpture of a river god in the garden at Stourhead (Woodbridge 1974).
The painting is not mentioned in the early sources but given its monumental size and recondite subject matter it may have been painted to be exhibited by Rosa in Rome in the first half of the 1660s. It is first documented in the 1818 exhibition catalogue of George Gillow's paintings at the Saloon of Arts in London, where it was stated that the painting previously belonged to Prince Pio di Savoia in Rome. However, the Dream of Aeneas does not appear in any of the published Pio inventories from the eighteenth century. At Gillow's sale in 1832 the picture was bought by the 2nd Lord Northwick for 21 guineas. It remained in the family's collection at Northwick Park in Gloucestershire until 1965, when it was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum.
Rosa also made an etching of the subject (see The Met, 17.50.17-85); whether before or after the painting is not clear. In a letter of October 21, 1663, Rosa explained to his friend Ricciardi why he had added the word "Pinx" (for "Pinxit") on his etchings: "Per sodisfarvi circa a quell Pinx delle mie carte, ce l'ho messo per mia cortesia e per far credere ch'io intanto l'ho intagliate, in quanto l'havevole dipinte. Ma la verità è che dall'Attilio in poi, tra le grandi, del Democrito e Dioggene della scodella, fra le mezzane, nessun'altra è stata da me collorita" (I put it there for my courtesy and to make people believe that I etched them as I had already painted them. But the truth is that from the "Atilius" onwards, among the large ones of the "Democritus" and "Diogenes with the Bowl" [and] among the medium ones, I have not painted any other [Salvator Rosa, Lettere, ed. Gian Giotto Borrelli, Bologna, 2003, p. 316, letter 296]). It seems therefore that most of Rosa's etchings predated the paintings, and this has been assumed also for the Dream (Salerno 1963, Sarasota 1971, Rotili 1974, Langdon 1980, Scott 1995, Christiansen 2005, Langdon 2008). The composition of the painting would therefore simplify and streamline that of the etching, with a more compact relationship between the two figures. For others (Salerno 1975, Wallace 1979, Stolzenburg 1999), Rosa must have followed the more traditional method of executing the painting first and then translating it into the etching.
It is impossible to establish the link between painting and etching on stylistic grounds, as the two works must be close in date, and were probably created at some point between 1663 and 1665. The series of ten surviving preparatory drawings, however, can help in the matter. Most of them are studies for one or the other of the two figures in the painting and chart the compositional development of the work: one is at the Princeton University Art Museum (inv. no. 48.814), three at the Museum der Bildenden Künste in Leipzig (inv. nos. 7457.25.39B, 7457.25.19B, 7457.25.87A), and others at the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin (inv. no. 15218), the British Museum (inv. no. Cracherode F.f.2-176), the Kunsthalle in Hamburg (inv. no. 21393), and in a private collection in Boston. The drawing in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, from the Janos Scholz Collection, showing a sleeping warrior with an armored figure looming over him and hitting him with an object (possibly a hammer) is also possibly related to an early stage of the composition, as well as to the later Jason and the Dragon (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts). The most finished sketch for the composition, however, is the ink-and-wash drawing in the Louvre (inv. no. 9741). This relates to both the painting and the etching. As noted by Prohaska (2008), the drawing is closer to the painting and follows the same format with Tiber on the right and Aeneas on the left. The arm of the river god is close to his chest and points to the right, as in the painting, but Rosa changed it in the drawing twice and the final arm points to the left outstretched, as in the etching. It seems, therefore, that Rosa worked on the painting first, the Louvre drawing being an intermediary composition started after the painting: Rosa slightly changed the arms and legs of Aeneas, corrected the river's arm, and then used it for the etching. The fact that the etching is reversed from the painting and drawings seems to confirm that it followed them.
[2010; adapted from Salomon 2010]
Inscription: Signed (lower right): SR [monogram]
?principe Pio di Savoia, Rome; George Gillow, London (by 1817–d. 1822; his estate, 1822–32; his estate sale, Stanley, London, June 13, 1832, no. 110, for 21 gns. to Northwick); John Rushout, 2nd Lord Northwick, Northwick Park, Gloucestershire (1832–d. 1859); his nephew, George Rushout Bowles, 3rd Lord Northwick, Northwick Park (1859–d. 1887; cat., 1864, no. 68); his widow, Elizabeth Augusta Bowles, Lady Northwick, Northwick Park (1887–d. 1912); her grandson, Captain Edward George Spencer-Churchill, Northwick Park (1912–d. 1964; cat., 1921, no. 63; his estate sale, Christie's, London, May 28, 1965, no. 34, to Agnew for MMA)
London. Saloon of Arts. "A Very Splendid Collection of Paintings by the Most Celebrated Masters of the Italian and Flemish Schools; with Numerous Superb Miniatures from the Vatican," 1817, no. 24 [The address of the Saloon of Arts is given as 16, Old Bond Street; a separate version of the catalogue gives the address as Maddox Street. In the Maddox Street version, this picture appears as no. 29.].
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat.
Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. State Hermitage Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," May 22–July 27, 1975, no. 11.
Moscow. State Pushkin Museum. "100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum," August 28–November 2, 1975, no. 11.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Patterns of Collecting: Selected Acquisitions, 1965–1975," December 6, 1975–March 23, 1976, unnumbered cat.
Naples. Museo di Capodimonte. "Salvator Rosa: tra mito e magia," April 18–June 29, 2008, no. 36.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009, online catalogue.
London. Dulwich Picture Gallery. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," September 15–November 28, 2010, no. 40.
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): Bandits, Wilderness and Magic," December 12, 2010–March 27, 2011, no. 40.
George Stanley. The Catalogue of a Very Splendid Collection of Paintings, by the Most Celebrated Masters of the Italian and Flemish Schools. . . . Exh. cat., Saloon of Arts. London, 1817, p. 6, no. 24, as "The Dream of Æneas" by Rosa; states that all eight works by Rosa in the exhibition were formerly in the collection of Prince Pio of Savoy [The address of the Saloon of Arts is given as 16, Old Bond Street; a separate version of the catalogue (of which the only example known is at the National Art Library, London) gives the address as Maddox Street. In the Maddox Street version, the MMA picture is listed as no. 29 on p. 7, but the text is almost identical.].
George Gillow. Select Engravings from a Collection of Pictures, by the Most Eminent Italian, Flemish, and Dutch Masters . . . London, 1818, p. 35, pl. 52 (etching by J. Vendramini).
"Art. XXII. Exhibition of a Splendid Collection of Paintings, by the Most Celebrated Masters of the Italian and Flemish Schools. . . ." Annals of the Fine Arts 3 (1819), p. 118, no. 24, reprints the text of the entry for this picture in the catalogue of the 1817 exhibition.
A Catalogue of the Pictures, Works of Art, &c. at Northwick Park. n.p., 1864, p. 9, no. 68.
Tancred Borenius. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures at Northwick Park. London, 1921, p. 32, no. 63, mentions Rosa's etching of the composition [Bartsch 23; impression in MMA Department of Prints and Drawings].
Luigi Salerno. Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1963, pp. 54–55, 130, no. 67a, fig. 67a, dates it about 1663 in the text and about 1662 in the catalogue, observing that it must have been made after Rosa's etching of the composition; publishes a drawing by Rosa in the Louvre, Paris (no. 9741), which he sees as a study for the painting and the etching, and mentions an engraving after the painting by Giovanni Vendramini [impression in MMA Department of Drawings and Prints].
Claus Virch. "The Story of Bruegel's Harvesters: A Curator's Coup." Connoisseur 172 (November 1969), pp. 221, 223, ill., notes that after cleaning at the MMA, this picture "emerged in its moonlight hues of silvery grey and green".
Edith A. Standen inMasterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. New York, , p. 27, ill. (color).
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Neapolitan paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [ca. 1970], tentatively date it to the early 1660s; believe that the preparatory drawing in the Louvre was used for both the painting and Rosa's etching; note that, following Hellenistic and Roman precedent, the river god Tiber is represented as a hoary, bearded figure, while the figure of Aeneas should be compared with the sleeping warriors that flank the tomb of Christ in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century representations of the Resurrection.
Peter A. Tomory. Salvator Rosa: His Etchings and Engravings after His Works. Exh. cat., John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. Sarasota, 1971, unpaginated, under no. 28, presumes that the painting followed the etching and drawing and may date later than about 1662; notes that the subject is unique to Rosa and "is a rare instance of a river god as an active participant".
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 177, 477, 609.
Michael Kitson in Helen Langdon. Salvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Hayward Gallery. London, 1973, pp. 34, 48, 64, no. 39, pl. 31, notes that it is not quite clear whether it was executed before or after the etching, which is datable about 1663–64; remarks, however, that "the deeply poetic and mysterious mood of the painting links it more closely to the romantic works of the late 1660s than to the severely classical style of the early part of the decade"; discusses seven preparatory drawings.
Luigi Salerno. "Salvator Rosa at the Hayward Gallery." Burlington Magazine 115 (December 1973), p. 828, includes it in the group of works Rosa executed after 1664, the period in which the artist "engaged in 'history' paintings far removed from 'decorative' landscape".
Giampiero Bozzolato. Le incisioni di Salvator Rosa: catalogo generale. Padua, 1973, p. 194.
Mario Rotili. Salvator Rosa incisore. Naples, 1974, pp. 108, 234, no. 108, fig. 108d, dates it a little later than the etching of about 1663 and suggests that the picture derives, not from the etching, but from the Louvre drawing.
Kenneth Woodbridge. "The Dream of Aeneas: A Rosa Source for Cheere's River God at Stourhead." Burlington Magazine 116 (December 1974), p. 756.
Anthony M. Clark inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 82.
Luigi Salerno. L'opera completa di Salvator Rosa. Milan, 1975, p. 99, no. 183, colorpl. 57, dates it after 1662.
Helen Langdon. "Salvator Rosa: His Ideas and Development as an Artist." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute of Art, London, 1975, pp. 372–73, dates it about 1663–64.
Katharine Baetjer in100 Paintings from the Metropolitan Museum [in Russian]. Exh. cat., State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. Moscow, 1975, pp. 36–37, ill.
Myra Nan Rosenfeld. "Problems of Iconography in Italian Painting." Apollo 103 (May 1976), p. 387.
Felton Gibbons. Catalogue of Italian Drawings in the Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1977, vol. 1, p. 177.
Michael Mahoney. The Drawings of Salvator Rosa. Vol. 1, New York, 1977, pp. 104, 117, 123, 641–45, fig. 41, dates it to the second half of 1663; supports Salerno's conclusion [see Ref. 1963] that the Louvre drawing served as a model for both the painting and the etching; illustrates and catalogues seven extant drawings related to the picture.
Wendy Wassyng Roworth. "Pictor Succensor": A Study of Salvator Rosa as Satirist, Cynic and Painter. PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College. New York, 1978, p. 376, dates it to the mid- or late 1660s.
Richard W. Wallace. Salvator Rosa in America. Exh. cat., Wellesley College Museum. Wellesley, Mass., 1979, pp. 33, 68, 81, illustrates and discusses an early drawing for the work (Princeton) and a drawing (Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) that may be related.
Richard W. Wallace. The Etchings of Salvator Rosa. Princeton, 1979, pp. 102–3, 307, 309, ill., believes the etching was executed after the painting.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, p. 312, fig. 560.
Laurel Bradley. "Eighteenth-Century Illustrations of Spenser's 'Faerie Queene': A Study in Taste." Marsyas 20 (1980), pp. 34, 38.
Helen Langdon. "The Etchings of Salvator Rosa." Burlington Magazine 122 (December 1980), pp. 843–44, refutes Wallace's claim [Ref. 1979] that the etching of this composition post-dates the painting, noting that the painting has much in common with Rosa's "Aethra and Theseus" (private collection) of about 1666.
Important Old Master Drawings. Christie's, London. April 12, 1983, p. 18, under no. 19, in the entry for a drawing for Rosa's etching of this subject, dates the etching 1662 and calls the MMA painting "the final and definitive stage of the design".
Christina Petrinos and Françoise Viatte. Repentirs. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1991, p. 137, under no. 48.
Jonathan Scott. Salvator Rosa: His Life and Times. New Haven, 1995, pp. 165–67, 178–79, ill. (color), wonders if the river god was inspired by Giambologna's statue of Mons Apenninus in the garden of the Medici villa, Pratolino, or Stefano della Bella's etching of the same subject.
Andreas Stolzenburg inSalvator Rosa, Genie der Zeichnung: Studien und Skizzen aus Leipzig und Haarlem. Ed. Herwig Guratzsch. Cologne, 1999, pp. 25, 262, ill., dates it after 1662; notes that the Louvre drawing and the MMA painting have a similar composition, which was later revised by Rosa for the etching.
Old Master Drawings. Exh. cat., Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd. London, 2001, unpaginated, under no. 10, fig. 4, dates it to the early 1660s.
Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), pp. 43, 45, fig. 41 (color).
Wolfgang Prohaska inSalvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, pp. 158–59, no. 36, ill. (color).
Helen Langdon inSalvator Rosa: tra mito e magia. Exh. cat., Museo di Capodimonte. Naples, 2008, pp. 52–53, 57 n. 50.
Marco Chiarini. "Salvator Rosa." Art e dossier no. 243 (April 2008), pp. 40–42, ill. (color), dates it about 1662–65.
Keith Christiansen inPhilippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1977–2008. New York, 2009, p. 37.
Xavier F. Salomon inSalvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 2010, pp. 93, 230–32, no. 40, ill. (color), dates it about 1665; lists ten preparatory drawings, and believes that the etching followed both the drawings and the painting.
Helen Langdon inSalvator Rosa. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 2010, p. 210.
Floriana Conte. "Precisazioni su Salvator Rosa a Milano (e una data per Francesco Cairo)." Arte lombarda 161–62 (2011), p. 103, fig. 17, sees its influence on Giovanni Ghisolfi's "San Pietro liberato dal carcere" (Santa Maria della Vittoria, Milan).
Floriana Conte. "Salvator Rosa's 'Marius Meditating Among the Ruins of Carthage' Rediscovered." Burlington Magazine 154 (March 2012), pp. 184, 186, discusses in detail the London exhibition of 1817, assuming that it was moved from Maddox Street to Old Bond Street at an unknown point [see Ref. Stanley 1817].
Caterina Volpi. Salvator Rosa (1615–1673): "pittore famoso". Rome, 2014, pp. 273, 339–42, 530, 533, 562, no. 233, fig. 277 (color), ill. p. 533, dates it about 1658–63; sees the influence of Bernini and Pietro da Corton, who was painting the story of Aeneas in Latium in the palazzo Pamphilj during the 1650s; connects the renewed interest in the figure of Aeneas to the writings of the Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680); believes Rosa was probably influenced by the figure of Endymion from Annibale Carracci's fresco in the Palazzo Farnese, Rome; connects the figure of Aeneas to similar ones in Rosa's "Dream of Jacob" (Devonshire collection, Chatsworth) and "Drunkenness of Noah" (private collection); notes that Giovanni Ghisolfi repeated the figure of Aeneas in "Saint Peter Freed from Prison" (1674; Santa Maria della Vittoria, Milan).
Keith Christiansen. "La création tardive d'une collection de peintures baroques au Metropolitan Museum of Art / Creating a Baroque Collection at the Metropolitan Late in the Game." Aux origines d'un goût: la peinture baroque aux États-Unis / Creating the Taste for Baroque Painting in America. Paris, 2015, pp. 65, 71.
An engraving after the painting was executed by Giovanni Vendramini before 1818 (impression in MMA Department of Drawings and Prints).