Ruins on the Right of the Via Appia

Carlo Labruzzi Italian

Not on view

This imposing landscape executed in watercolor over graphite is relatively finished. The composition exhibits a double framing outline and an inscription at the top of the sheet, “93,” written in the same ink, all of which indicates this was an autonomous work in and of itself. The composition depicts two men one seated and one standing as they explore the landscape and monumental ruins of a wall which is overgrown with foliage. The ruins are those at a particular site, about 22 km, on the Via Appia in Rome.
This watercolor by Carlo Labruzzi, an accomplished Roman neoclassical painter and graphic artist, is a typical work by his hand. Its style closely resembles that of the 226 landscape drawings from the series on the Via Appia, executed in pen and brown ink with brush and brown wash (without color), now housed in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana and which were published thoroughly only in 2013. The Vatican series on the Via Appia was executed by Labruzzi during his trip from Rome to Benevento in 1789 and was commissioned by Sir Richard Colt Hoare of Stourhead (1758-1838), the noted British antiquarian (and heir to a banking family) who accompanied the artist on this trip. Although the Vatican series is done in monochrome, it provides such a close complement to the present work that it too must have been produced around 1789.
The composition, minus the use of watercolor, is that seen in one of the scenes from the Via Appia series commissioned by Hoare: that inscribed “Ruins on the right of the Via Appia” in Labruzzi’s Vatican series (BAV, Vat. Lat. 14930 [81]), of which other versions exist. The present work is an addition to the most recent literature (compare Andrea de Rosa and Barbara Jatta, La Via Appia nei disegni di Carlo Labruzzi alla Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City, 2013, p. 265, where it would belong). A copy of “Ruins on the right of the Via Appia,” also in monochrome (executed in pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash) is preserved in Rome at the Biblioteca Sarti of the Accademia di San Luca (vol. III, 15). The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana has a copy in watercolor (BAV, Ashby.Disegni.Scatola.10 [6]). The design of this latter copy in watercolor probably derives from the present work, rather than the autograph drawing in monochrome in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. The graphite underdrawing in the present sheet is more energetic than that in both the autograph “Ruins on the right of the Via Appia” (BAV, Vat. Lat. 14930 [81]) and the Vatican copy in watercolor. The definition of the sky with gray and blue watercolor is particularly noteworthy in the present work. The Vatican landscape (BAV, Vat. Lat. 14930 [81]) therefore seems to be a version of the watercolor scene being offered to the Museum as a gift, rather than a preparatory study for it.
(Carmen C. Bambach; February 22, 2016)

Ruins on the Right of the Via Appia, Carlo Labruzzi (Italian, Rome 1748–1817 Perugia), Watercolor over graphite

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