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View of Rome from the Tiber

William Marlow, English, 1740 - 1813

Made in England, Europe

c. 1775

Oil on canvas

40 x 50 1/8 inches (101.6 x 127.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 290, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Jay Cooke, 1955

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Additional information:
  • PublicationBritish Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    View of Rome from the Tiber is one of five views of the Castel S. Angelo and the Church of St. Peter's seen from the Lungotevere (see versions 1 and 2). Each differs slightly from the others in such details as the reflection of the bridge in the water and the disposition of the boats and figures in the foreground; but the scenes are all alike in the distance from which the artist viewed his subject. A sketch in the Paul Oppé Collection (William Marlow, St. Peter's and the Castel S. Angelo, 1765-66) is identical to the scene in the Philadelphia painting in all important respects. The pen sketch contains color notes and is inscribed Roma and so can be dated to 1765-66, when Marlow was in the city. The Philadelphia view would therefore seem to be based on the Oppé drawing. However, Kroenig (1972) has shown that Marlow's view of the Castel S. Angelo in Philadelphia is closely related to an engraving by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) dated to c. 1754 (Hadrian's Tomb and St. Peter's, c. 1754, engraving, 14 7/8 x 22 7/8" {37.7 x 58.1 cm.}), and though the foreground and river traffic in the two views are not similar, the viewpoint and the angle of the buildings at the left are very close. However, one should be wary of treating any of these early views of the Tiber as though they were photographic records, for some degree of artistic caprice was acceptable, and few renderings of the scene agree in all the details.

    In Marlow's version 1 (Rome from the Tiber, oil on canvas, 32 1/2 x 53" {82.5 x 134.6 cm.}, London, Department of the Environment) the walls of the fortifications of the Castel S. Angelo slightly above water level are very different from those rendered in either the Philadelphia picture or the Oppé drawing in having square apertures for cannons. A comparison with views of the castle painted by Gaspar van Wittel (1653-1736) from the same viewpoint shows that both the Philadelphia view and the view in the Oppé drawing match van Wittel's delineation of the castle fortifications in not showing these apertures.1 Likewise these openings for cannons are never shown in views of the castle by Antonio Joli (1700-1777) listed by Kroenig.2 But in Piranesi's engraving of c. 1754 (eleven years before Marlow's drawing in the Oppé Collection) these square apertures are shown; perhaps they could be covered over at certain times.

    Another vexing detail is the existence or absence of a wooden scaffolding under the arch farthest to the right of the Ponte S. Angelo (or perhaps it is a wooden gate to prevent passage under the arch by land). The Philadelphia picture and version 1 show this wooden gate, as does the Piranesi engraving and another engraved view of the scene by Giuseppe Vasi (1710-1782) dated 1754 (7 5/8 x 12 5/8").3 In the Oppé drawing, and in most later views of the Ponte S. Angelo listed by Kroenig, this scaffolding does not appear.

    Determining the date of any undocumented view by Marlow is difficult. He began to exhibit Italian views at the Society of Artists beginning in 1767. Paintings entitled A View of Rome were shown there in 1769 (no. 92), 1775 (no. 166), 1777 (no. 59), and 1780 (no. 180). At the Royal Academy in 1788 Marlow exhibited Castel St. Angelo, etc., Rome (no. 440). Michael Liversidge, who is preparing a catalogue of Marlow's work, suggested in a letter to the author, June 22, 1981, that the version now owned by the Department of the Environment (William Marlow, Rome from the Tiber, oil on canvas, 32 1/2 x 53" {82.5 x 134.6 cm.}, London, Department of the Environment) may have been the View of Rome exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1769. The Philadelphia picture, he suggests, was the View of Rome shown at the Society of Artists in 1775 and, in any case, would seem to be a picture dating from the mid-1770s.4 In the Witt Library, London, are photographs of four views of the Castel S. Angelo attributed to Marlow, all of which can be rejected.5

    Richard Dorment, from British Painting in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: From the Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Century (1986), pp. 219-221.

    1. See Giuliano Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, e Porgine della veduta settecentesca (Rome, 1966), pp. 197-98, nos. 75-80.
    2. Wolfgang Kroenig. "Storia di una veduta di Roma." Bollettino d'Arte, ser. 5, vol. 57, nos. 3-4 (1972), pp. 165-98, fig. 27.
    3. Ibid., fig. 28. However, the Vasi and Pirancsi, though they are of the same date, differ in Vasi's exclusion of apertures for cannons.
    4. Farington Diary, [1793], January 31, 1794, noted that Sir Watkins Williams Wynne "bid in a very spirited manner for Pictures at the sale of John Hunters Pictures [January 29, 1794]. Marlows, St. Angelo & the Companion, (a pair), sold for 20 guineas." At the Hunter sale a view of the Castel S. Angelo (lot 61) with a view of Lyons was sold to a Mr. Bowles. This may be the picture now in Philadelphia, but no firm proof exists. A Marlow entitled Castle and Bridge of St. Angelo was exhibited at the Suffolk Street Gallery, 1833, no. 333 (lent by L. Dulacher); but again, there is no evidence to connect this view with the picture in Philadelphia.
    5. They are as follows: (a) Attributed to William Marlow (perhaps Gaspar van Wittel or a follower), Rome from the Tiber, dimensions unknown, Oakley Park, the Earl of Plymouth; (b) Attributed to William Marlow, Rome from the Tiber, oil on canvas, 29 x 34" (73.6 x 86.4 cm.), formerly with John Mitchell and Son, London (The Connoisseur, vol. 181 [November 1972], p. 40); (c) follower of William Marlow (here attributed to Antonio Joli), Rome from the Tiber; dimensions unknown, with Leggatt, 1946; (d) Follower of William Marlow (here attributed to Antonio Joli), Rome from the Tiber, oil on canvas, 55 1/2 x 73"( 141 x 185.4 cm.), with Leggatt, 1926.

    Wolfgang Kroenig. "Storia di una veduta di Roma." Bollettino d'Arte, ser. 5, vol. 57, nos. 3-4 (1972), p. 188 and nn. 60, 100, fig. 51; Allen Staley. "British Painting from Hogarth to Alma Tadema." Apollo, n.s., vol. 100 (July 1974), p. 36.

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