Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Ancient Rome

Giovanni Paolo Panini (Italian, Piacenza 1691–1765 Rome)
Oil on canvas
67 3/4 x 90 1/2 in. (172.1 x 229.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gwynne Andrews Fund, 1952
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 620
Ancient Rome is a pendant to Modern Rome and shows the most famous antique monuments in the city. It was commissioned by the Count de Stainville, later the Duke de Choiseul, who is at the center with a guidebook in hand. Panini shows himself behind the chair. The gentlemen are admiring a copy of an ancient fresco. The Pantheon, the Coliseum, Trajan's column, the Farnese Hercules, and the Laocoön may be identified. For the identification of the other monuments, visit
In 1749, Giovanni Paolo Panini painted a large canvas depicting Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga surrounded by his collection of pictures (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford). Each painting in the cardinal’s collection was placed within an imaginary architectural setting of a grand gallery space. This work provided the model for two large paintings commissioned by Étienne-François de Choiseul-Stainville, comte de Stainville and later duc de Choiseul, who was the French Ambassador for King Louis XV to Rome between the end of 1754 and 1757. Painted in 1756, they represented Ancient Rome (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart) and Modern Rome (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and were accompanied by two other canvases, Saint Peter’s Square (collection of the Duke of Sutherland) and The Interior of Saint Peter’s (Athenaeum, Boston). A year later, in 1757, Panini made another two versions of Ancient Rome (52.63.1) and Modern Rome (52.63.2) for the duc de Choiseul. These were part of a set with another Saint Peter’s Square (Gemӓldegalerie, Berlin) and The Interior of Saint Peter’s (National Gallery of Art, Washington). Subsequently, in 1758–59, Panini painted two more larger canvases of Ancient Rome and Modern Rome (Musée du Louvre, Paris) for Monsignor Claude- François Rogier de Beaufort-Montboisier de Canillac, chargé d’affaires of the French Embassy in Rome.

The MMA versions of Ancient Rome and Modern Rome may have belonged originally to the French painter Hubert Robert, who was close to the duc de Choiseul and a pupil of Panini. He may have even assisted Panini with the paintings, even though such collaboration is difficult to recognize in the final works.

Set in a grandiose gallery, in this painting Panini presented an array of celebrated ancient monuments and sculptures in and around Rome, portrayed in pictures. A group of figures gathers around the ancient fresco known as the Aldobrandini Wedding. Standing, and holding a small guidebook, is the patron, the duc de Choiseul, and behind him, wearing the cross of Cavaliere dello Speron d’Oro, is the artist himself.

Three preparatory drawings for two of the figures and for the portrait of the duke are in the British Museum, London.

For identification of the monuments represented, see diagram in Additional Images, fig. 1.

[Xavier F. Salomon 2011]
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower left, on pedestal): I· P· PANINI ROMÆ / 1757
?Hubert Robert (until d. 1808; sale, Paillet, Paris, April 5, 1809, no. 9, as "Rome antique" and "Rome moderne," each 64 x 72 pouces [68 x 77 in.], purchased by Paillet before auction for Fr 2,801); ?[Alexandre Paillet, Paris, 1809–14; posthumous sale, Paris, June 2, 1814, no. 47, as "Rome antique" and "Rome moderne", each 64 x 72 pouces, for Fr 1,000]; ?Casimir Périer, Paris; Arnold Baruchson, Liverpool (in 1857); A. Murray (until 1877; sale, Christie's, March 17, 1877, no. 115, "Ancient Rome," £152.5.0, to Lesser; no. 116, "Renaissance Rome," £189.0.0 to Waters); [Sedelmeyer, Paris, in 1896]; Camille Groult, Paris (until d. 1908); Groult collection (1908–52; sale, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, March 21, 1952, nos. 87 ["Rome Antique," 52.63.1] and 88 ["Rome au Temps de la Renaissance," 52.63.2], to Cailleux for MMA)
Manchester. Art Treasures Palace. "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom," May 5–October 17, 1857, no. 832 (as "Ancient Rome," by G. P. Pannini, lent by Alexander [sic for Arnold] Baruchson, Esq.).

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal. "The Triumph of the Baroque," December 9, 1999–April 9, 2000, no. 2.

Washington. National Gallery of Art. "The Triumph of the Baroque," May 21–August 30, 2000, no. 2.

Rome. Palazzo Venezia. "Il Settecento a Roma," November 10, 2005–February 26, 2006, no. 148.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Italy Observed: Views and Souvenirs, 1706–1899," October 12, 2010–January 2, 2011, no catalogue.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Antiquity Revived: Neoclassical Art in the Eighteenth Century," March 20–May 30, 2011, no. 22 (as "Interior of an Imaginary Picture Gallery with Views of Ancient Rome").

Arnold Baruchson. Letter to the Secretary of the Manchester Exhibition. January 22, 1857, states that he is willing to lend his paintings by Panini, "Ancient Rome" and "Modern Rome" [the present work and its pendant], to the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857 and notes that these works were executed in 1757 for the duc de Choisseul [sic for Choiseul].

Illustrated Catalogue of the Third Series of 100 Paintings by Old Masters . . . Paris, 1896, p. 92, no. 73, ill., states that this picture and its pendant were painted for the duc de Choiseul and "sold after his death in Paris in 1786; afterwards in the Collections of Casimir Perier, Alex. [sic for Arnold] Baruchson, and A. Murray".

W. G. Constable. Letter to Elizabeth Gardner. April 15, 1952, notes that a group of four pictures, including an "Ancient Rome" and a "Modern Rome," were commissioned from Panini by the duc de Choiseul and purchased in the nineteenth century by the Boston Atheneum; provides subsequent provenance for these pictures.

Emily Genauer. "One-Picture Gallery." Herald Tribune [Sunday Magazine] (July 12, 1953), p. 10.

"The First Imaginary Museum." Art News 52 (March 1953), pp. 28–29, 64, ill., identify the monuments in these pictures and note that "neither patron nor artist romanticized the ruins; everything was pedantically copied from life".

Emilio Lavagnino. Il Settecento a Roma. Exh. cat., location unknown. Rome, 1959, p. 168, catalogues an autograph variant of "Modern Rome," dated 1757 and lent to this exhibition by the Boston Athenaeum [it is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston]; states that it was commissioned in 1756 by the duc de Choiseul and that its pendant, "Ancient Rome," is in the collection of the Earl of Ellesmere [now Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart]; mentions our pictures as replicas of this pair with slight variations, and certainly also commissioned by Choiseul; observes that another set of replicas with more extensive variations is in the Louvre, Paris.

Carlo Pietrangeli. "Ricordo romano di un ambasciatore di Francia." Capitolium 36 (May 1961), p. 15.

Ferdinando Arisi. Gian Paolo Panini. Piacenza, 1961, pp. 83 n. 55, 103, 212, 214–15, no. 249, 270–71, states that Panini produced three versions of "Ancient Rome" and "Modern Rome"; calls the MMA pictures repetitions with variations of the works in Stuttgart and Boston commissioned from Panini in 1756 by the duc de Choiseul, and part of a series with a "View of St. Peter's Square in Rome" (Ellesmere collection) and the "Interior of St. Peter's" (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); suggests that the MMA canvases came from the collection of Hubert Robert who perhaps took part in their execution; considers the figure behind the armchair to be a self-portrait of the artist, while the duc de Choiseul is represented with a book in his left hand and a walking stick in his right; mentions three preparatory drawings for the MMA "Ancient Rome" in the British Museum: one of a youth seen from behind in the center of the composition (f.130), another for the figure of a youth next to the artist's self-portrait (f.131), and a third study for the likeness of the duc de Choiseul (f.136).

Estella Brunetti. "Il Panini e la monografia di F. Arisi." Arte antica e moderna 25 (January–March 1964), pp. 176, 182, establishes that Monsignor de Canillac is the protagonist of the pendants in the Louvre.

Federico Zeri and Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript. [ca. 1970–80], state that this picture and its pendant were commissioned by the duc de Choiseul, who is depicted in the center of the present composition with a guide book, apparently of Rome, in his left hand, while the artist is shown half-length behind a chair; call the MMA pendants repetitions with variations of the examples in Stuttgart and Boston commissioned from Panini in 1756 by the duc de Choiseul; point out that autograph replicas of these paintings along with a "View of St. Peter's Square in Rome" (Ellesmere collection) belonged to Panini's pupil, Hubert Robert, and consider it likely that two of these are identifiable with the MMA pictures; mention later versions of these paintings dated 1758 and 1759, now in the Louvre, Paris; identify the monuments represented here.

Linda Boyer Gillies. "An Eighteenth–Century Roman View: Panini's Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (February/March 1972), p. 184, identifies them as the second set of pendants made by Panini, calling calling the Boston picture and its pendant in Stuttgart primary, and the pair in the Louvre the latest.

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 156–57, 498, 608.

Barbara Scott. "The duc de Choiseul: A Minister in the Grand Manner." Apollo (January 1973), pp. 43–44, ill., as painted for the duc de Choiseul.

Ian Kennedy in Christie's Review of the Season 1976. Ed. John Herbert. New York, 1976, p. 48.

Exhibition of Old Master Paintings. Exh. brochure, Leger Galleries. London, 1977, unpaginated, calls them "variants of the original . . . later versions [of the Stuttgart/Boston pair] with rearrangements of the principal figures, and probably collaborations with Hubert Robert," who was working in Panini's studio at that time.

Ferdinando Arisi. Gian Paolo Panini e i fasti della Roma del '700. Rome, 1986, pp. 173–74 n. 98, 179–181, 464–65, 467, no. 474, ill. (overall and details).

Peter Galassi. Corot in Italy: Open-Air Painting and the Classical-Landscape Tradition. New Haven, 1991, pp. 85–86, ill., mentions this work in relation to the tradition of picture-postcard displays.

Ferdinando Arisi. Gian Paolo Panini. Soncino, 1991, p. 29, considers it practically impossible to specify the degree to which Hubert Robert worked on these scenes.

Michael Kiene. Pannini. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1992, p. 145.

Ferdinando Arisi in Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1691–1765. Ed. Ferdinando Arisi. Exh. cat., Palazzo Gotico. Milan, 1993, p. 116.

Eliot W. Rowlands. The Collections of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art: Italian Paintings, 1300–1800. Kansas City, Mo., 1996, p. 409, notes that while the exact function of these works "remains a mystery," they may have served as advertisements for views the artist could produce upon request.

JoLynn Edwards. Alexandre-Joseph Paillet: Expert et marchand de tableaux à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Paris, 1996, pp. 192–93, 325, 330, ill. p. 194.

Paul Mitchell and Lynn Roberts. Frameworks: Form, Function & Ornament in European Portrait Frames. London, 1996, p. 448 n. 6.

David R. Marshall in The Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600–1750. Ed. Henry A. Millon. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Milan, 1999, pp. 426–27, ill. [Italian ed., I trionfi del Barocco: architettura in Europa, 1600–1750, with same pagination, 1999], states that two sets of four paintings were commissioned from Panini by the duc de Choiseul; judging from the provenance, believes the MMA pair formed a set with the "Exterior of St. Peter's" in Berlin and the "Interior of St. Peter's" in Washington, and that this was the set owned by Hubert Robert; questions Arisi's identification of the figure behind the chair in this picture as a self-portrait; notes that only some of the images represented in the paintings existed as independent compositions by the artist.

Edgar Peters Bowron in Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Edgar Peters Bowron and Joseph J. Rishel. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2000, p. 427.

Laura Laureati et al. in Il Settecento a Roma. Ed. Anna Lo Bianco and Angela Negro. Exh. cat., Palazzo Venezia, Rome. Cinisello Balsamo (Milan), 2005, pp. 78, 86, 250–52, no. 148, ill. (color, overall and detail).

Elizabeth A. Pergam. "From Manchester to Manhattan: The Transatlantic Art Trade After 1857." Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 87, no. 2 (2005), pp. 82, 86, 91, includes the pair among Baroque paintings bought by the MMA, stating that although the two pictures "might be considered examples of neoclassical Capriccio aimed at the eighteenth-century English Grand Tourist . . . , their scale and 'horror vacui' place them firmly within late baroque sensibility".

Edgar Peters Bowron in Antiquity Revived: Neoclassical Art in the Eighteenth Century. Ed. Guillaume Faroult et al. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2011, p. 69, no. 22, ill. (color).

Guillaume Faroult in Hubert Robert, 1733–1808: Un peintre visionnaire. Ed. Guillaume Faroult and Catherine Voiriot. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 2016, p. 429, fig. 143 (color), under no. 139.

Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, p. 421, no. 287, ill. pp. 305, 421 (color).

Joseph Baillio in Hubert Robert. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2016, pp. 7, 11 n. 15, fig. 5 (color).

Guillaume Faroult in Hubert Robert. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, 2016, p. 254, under no. 97.

Old Masters, Including Old Master & British Drawings & Watercolours. Christie's, London. December 8, 2017, p. 27, under no. 117.

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