The Lottery in Piazza di Montecitorio

Giovanni Paolo Panini Italian

Not on view

This large view is a highly finished preparatory sketch for a painting in the National Gallery, London (inv. NG6605), representing the drawing of the Roman lottery on the balcony of the Palazzo di Montecitorio (see here ‘references’: Draper 1969), as attested by a contemporary annotation in the lower margin of the sheet . The painting is said to have been commissioned by Cardinal Domenico Orsini (1719-1789; created September 9, 1743), and the annotation itself cannot predate October 1749, when Panini was granted the title Cavaliere dello Sperone d'oro. The view is very accurate, although Panini has taken certain liberties in showing, on the right, the whole Column of Marcus Aurelius, which in fact at the time was obscured by buildings separating the Piazza Colonna from the Piazza di Montecitorio. At the right is the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius, excavated near the Palazzo di Montecitorio in 1703 and in 1705 installed by Carlo Fontana in the square, where it remained until 1764. Today it is in the Cortile della Pigna of the Vatican. The obelisk that now stands in the center of the square was erected there between 1788 and 1792.

The Palazzo di Montecitorio was known in Panini's day as the Curia Innocenziana, so named for its connection with Popes Innocent XI and Innocent XII. It was commissioned from Bernini by Innocent XI Odescalchi, but actually constructed according to the design of Carlo Fontana for Innocent XII Pignatelli. Directly behind the Palazzo di Montecitorio, on the right, facing the column of Marcus Aurelius, is the Palazzo Chigi. The building behind and slightly to the left of the column of Marcus is the Palazzo Piombino, replaced in the late-nineteenth century by the Galleria Colonna. The bozzetto was apparently drawn directly in the Piazza, but Panini radically changed the foreground of the painting and restudied almost all the figures. The only figure specifically retained from the drawing is the seated man sketching or writing at lower left. Eight figure studies for the painting have been identified. In composition, the drawing corresponds quite closely to the painting, but in the latter the figures are larger in scale and grouped differently. Edward Croft-Murray identified two chalk figure studies by Panini for the painting in a sketchbook preserved in the British Museum, and James Draper found further figure studies in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, in the Witt Collection at the Courtauld Institute, London, and in a Swiss private collection (all reproduced in Draper 1969).

As astutely pointed out by Simonetta Prosperi Valenti Rodinò, with regard to the provenance, the drawing can be identified as that mentioned by the painter Giuseppe Bossi on his Memoires of June 26, 1810: "I just bought six beautiful Panninis depicting Montecavallo, the Via del Corso, the broken atrium of the Porta Santa, Monte Citorio with the Lottery Game, and some minor views of the Colosseum, all for 18 soldi" (Ho acquistato sei stupendi Pannini rappresentanti Monte Cavallo, il Corso, l’atrio della rottura della Porta Santa, Monte Citorio coll’estrazione del Lotto e in forma minore due vedute del Colosseo, tutto per s.[oldi] 18.)
(F. R. 2015)

The Lottery in Piazza di Montecitorio, Giovanni Paolo Panini (Italian, Piacenza 1691–1765 Rome), Pen and black ink, watercolor, over graphite; framing lines in pen and black ink at left, right, and upper margins

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