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    Inscribed to original backing Lago di Trasimeno / Ducros / Roma

    Pen & ink with black chalk, watercolour and bodycolour, on two joined sheets of paper

    73.5 x 130 cm



    Arthur H. Renshaw (1841-?), Sussex, U.K.;
    Anonymous sale, Christie's, London, 28.06.1966, lot 149 (sold for 480 gns to Hardy);

    Distinguished Private collection, Yorkshire, U.K.



    Images of the Grand Tour - Louis Ducros 1748-1810 (exhib. cat.), Geneva (1985), appendix 2, p. 104





    The present work is an extremely scarce example Ducros' depiction of Lake Trasimene, which is documented in the sale catalogue of the Vues de Rome and Vues de Sicile, a copy of which was attached by the artist to a letter he sent to the Directory on the 1st April 1799 (1). Ducros seems to have painted both a large and small view of the lake, with the larger one featuring as no.35 in his sale catalogue, and the smaller one (part of the Suite de douze petites Vues) as no. 12 in that series. This example is undoubtedly one of the larger series, with the price Ducros charged at the time listed as '5'. Although it is not certain which currency Ducros was using, it was likely the Lazian baiocco which was in use until 1867 in Rome. This price placed it among the second most expensive tier of works which Ducros sold. 


    One example of this view, from the same perspective but with a different arrangement of staffage - not unusual for Ducros' larger views which were without any etched outlines - and on a smaller scale (64 x 101 cm), can be found at Stourhead, Wiltshire, the former home of Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838), one of Ducros' most important patrons (inv. no. NT 730815, see fig. 1 above). The view itself is almost certainly looking northward, with the island of Polvese in the foreground and Isole Maggiore in the distance; Castiglione would therefore lie behind the trees on the left. Few artists during this period travelled to this part of Perugia to paint, perhaps because of the relatively long journey required from both Rome and Florence. Of the British artists in Rome at this time, only John Robert Cozens and John 'Warwick' Smith drew and painted Lake Trasimene, which they called the 'Lake of Perugia'. 





    Abraham-Louis-Rodolphe was the son of a drawing master at Yverdon College. He was born in Moudon and came to Geneva in 1769, to study under Nicolas-Henri-Joseph de Fassin. He subsequently left for Italy, establishing himself in Rome at the end of 1776: it was a difficult time for a young vedutisto to make his way, as the field was largely dominated by the Hackert brothers (Johann Philip & Johann Gottlieb) and was on the precipice of an influx of innovative, gifted British artists like Towne, Pars and Jones. Fortunately for Ducros, in 1778 he was employed by two Dutch noblemen to accompany them on a four-month voyage to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Malta where he created close to three hundred watercolours (held currently by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam). This trip ‘put him on the map’ as it were for likeminded clients and his artistic peers.


    Ducros remained in Rome from 1777 to 1793, working as a landscape painter, largely in watercolours (his oils are, comparatively, very rare). It was his business partnership with the Italian engraver Giovanni Volpato that secured his legacy however. Volpato, already renowned for his engravings of the Papal loggia frescos and decorations, would provide Ducros with the etched outlines of scenes which Ducros particularly liked and had sketched or painted previously (as in the case of the present work); Ducros could then concentrate on colouring these with watercolour, without having to work up the outlines afresh each time. This also meant that the pair could effectively produce the most popular Grand Tourist views with a swift turnaround for clients, and with a consistency of quality that some artists would struggle with. Furthermore, the canny Tourist could purchase such works for less than the more costly oils or gouaches of Hackert et al, and could rest assured that only the cognoscenti could spot the difference in quality between the etched works and an original watercolour by Ducros (and even then only on close inspection usually). In collaboration with the Volpato, Ducros published twenty-four engravings depicting views of Rome and its surroundings.


    Ducros enjoyed the patronage of many of Europe's most prominent collectors: he received a commission from Paul Alexandrovitch of Russia for two paintings of the Prince's tour to Tivoli and, in 1782, a commission from Pope Pius VI himself. In 1784, Gustav III of Sweden was his largest purchaser, but his foremost supporters throughout his career were English noblemen on the Grand Tour of Europe, especially Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Milford Hervey, and Lord Breadalbane. Many of Ducros' paintings remain in Britain today, with the best group of these at Stourhead. 



    The unrest arising from the French Revolution led to the expulsion of many French from the Papal States. Ducros, considered a Jacobin, was expelled in 1793; he subsequently settled in Abruzzo, then in Naples until 1799, where he created numerous works depicting Campania and Mount Etna. He sold some of his works to William Hamilton, the influential British Ambassador who married the young Emma Hamilton, and some seascapes to Lord Acton. Ducros came again to Malta in 1800, and here painted views of Valletta for the General Thomas Graham, who had recently taken the island from the French.


    Ducros returned to Switzerland in the summer of 1807, first of all to Nyon, then to Lausanne. In Geneva he was named an honorary member of the Society of Arts in 1807. In Bern, he was named professor of painting at the Academy in 1809, but died, in Lausanne, before being able to assume the post, on 18 February 1810. His landscapes are, for the most part, kept in the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts in Lausanne, as well as in collections across Britain (notably Kenwood, Stourhead and Bramham Hall) and Europe. 



    • NOTES

      (1) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paris, Diplomatic Archive, Corr. etr., Rome, vol. 928, fol.261-262, repr. in the Kenwood / Geneva catalogue of 1985 (ibid.)

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