A LONE FIGURE (POSSIBLY SIR RICHARD COLT HOARE) STANDING NEAR MONKS WITHIN THE COLOSSEUM, ROME
Indistinctly inscribed l.l. (see final image)
Bears inscriptions verso Rome (twice, possibly in two hands) and in another hand Vente 13 B. Taylor
Watercolour with pen & ink and pencil
33.5 x 24.5 cm
Private Collection, Paris
Farrando, Paris, 06.11.2020, Lot 20, as Ecole Neoclassique
The present work can be compared to Francis Towne's depiction of the same subject from a different perspective, now in the British Museum (Nn,2.17, Stephens FT181). As Stephens noted of that work, the colosseum was at that time used for religious purposes, with the Stations of the Cross and public preaching visible in the our work. One can also see the large wooden cross in the centre of the amphitheatre, which Pope Benedict XIV had dedicated during the eighteenth century as a place of memorial for Christian martyrs (installing the Stations of the Cross at the same time). The monks seen here are likely Capuchins, a branch of the Franciscan Order, on the basis of comparison with a painting now in the Städel Museum (Inv. 982) by Johann Anton Ramboux.
The figure clothed in dark in a top hat might possibly be Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Baronet, F.R.S. (1758 – 1838), Labruzzi's patron and travelling companion. Labruzzi portrayed Hoare in similar attire in Sir Richard Colt Hoare & Other Visitors in the Interior of The Cistern at Castra Albana, sold Sotheby's, London, The Ingram Collection of Drawings from the late Michael Ingram, 08.12.2005, Lot 60. See the final image above for a comparison between our work and three other depictions of Hoare by Labruzzi.
Hoare visited Italy a number of times between 1785 and 1798, publishing notes on his travels under the title Recollections Abroad, in various editions, the first appearing in 1817. He also aimed to complete an illustrated guide called Via Appia Illustrata, which was to be an account of the journey south along the ancient Via Appia from Rome to Brindisi, following in the footsteps of Horace (who had made the journey in 35 BC). This was to be illustrated with plates based on drawings by Labruzzi. Hoare and Labruzzi set out from Rome in 1789 to begin this project, but bad weather and the artist's ill-health meant that neither the journey nor the book was ever completed; only twenty-four plates were issued during Hoare's lifetime, though another set were issued in the 19th century. Labruzzi is known to have made 226 monochrome drawings which Hoare retained, which are now in the Vatican Collections, and Labruzzi kept an album of the less finished works. A plethora of further associated works have since appeared on the U.K. market, and Labruzzi's views of Rome and its environs from throughout his career amount to many more.
An important exhibition of 90 of Labruzzi's drawings, many of which were the originals for the Via Appia Illustrata project, was held at Dickinson, London, 12.07-13.08.2012 (Carlo Labruzzi: The Grand Tour). Within that exhibition were three drawings of views from the outside of the Colosseum, each displaying similar handling and the same effect of outlining figures but leaving them un-coloured with wash. Perhaps the best known of these today is The Colosseum seen from the Palatine Hill, now in the Courtald, London (Katrin Bellinger Collection).
Richard Green neatly summarised Labruzzi's standard technique for works such as ours, writing, "...Labruzzi more generally began his drawings in pen and grey watercolour or ink, adding monochrome washes with a brush and then, in some cases, colour washes, although these do not completely cover the monochrome washes" (1).
Although Labruzzi's technique throughout his career and its development has not yet received extensive academic analysis, it is nevertheless particularly recognisable for his aforementioned innovative colouring technique: sections of the paper (usually cream or off-white) stand out, most often in the staffage, which is drawn in pencil or pen & ink but not shaded. Diana Petheridge and Anita Viola Sganzerla described the technique in the Courtald Coloseum View: "Working first en plein air and later in the studio, Labruzzi would delineate his compositions in pencil, later strengthening the lines in pen and ink and adding layers of watercolour in a variety of hues. The varying degrees of finish between background and foreground, or landscape and figures, add to the allure and the luminous quality of the sheet." (2) One can see this especially clearly in Labruzzi's treatment of clouds: comparisons can be made between the handling of the clouds in our work and in a number of Labruzzi's other watercolours, but particularly in Sepulchre on the Via Nomentana (Dickinson, cat. no. 17).
(1) R. Green, Master Drawings, London (Review), The Burlington Magazine, Sept. 2012, Vol. 154, No. 1314, p.650
(2) D. Petheridge & A.V. Sganzerla, Artists at Work (exhib. catalogue, ed. K. Gortado & R. Sloan), Courtald Gallery, London (2018), cat. no. 4, p.38
(i) Carlo Labruzzi: The Grand Tour (exhib. catalogue), Dickinson, London (2012)
(ii) P. A. De Rosa and B. Jatta, La Via Appia nei disegni di Carlo Labruzzi alla Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City (2013)