AN INTERIOR VIEW FROM THE CHAPEL OF ARAGON ACROSS THE CHOIR TO THE FRENCH CHAPEL, ST JOHN'S CO CATHEDRAL, VALLETTA
Signed l.l., bears late inscription to backboard Gabriel Carelli
Pencil with watercolour & sepia washes
35.5 x 24.5 cm
The present work is a recently re-discovered sketch from the artist's trip to Malta, Sicily and further East in 1839. The trip may have been sponsored by the Duke of Devonshire, Gabriele's first patron (he had been introduced to the Duke by his father Rafaelle, also an artist); or the Duke could also have purchased works from it later, after the younger Carelli's stay at Chatsworth in 1847. A number of sketches and watercolours from this trip of 1839 remain in the Devonshire Collection at Chatsworth, kept in "Album No.5, Carelli's Sketches, 1839, Sicily & the East". A more panoramic and characteristically vivid view from a slightly different perspective can be found through the following link:
https://www.watercolourworld.org/painting/untitled-tww014465 [last accessed 16/01/2020]
The present work is more finely rendered than that above. This precision of detail is particularly suited to the ornate monument to Nicolas Cotoner i d'Olesa of Aragon (1608-1680), 61st Prince and Grand Master of the Knights of the Order of Malta. The monument was sculpted by the Italian Domenico Guidi (1625-1701), a well-known sculptor of the Baroque tradition who also completed commissions for the King of France. It has been pointed out that the slaves at the base of the sculpture are almost direct copies of those on Pietro Tacca's Monument of the Four Moors (1626) in Livorno. This would have been appropriate, as the slaves at the base of that statue symbolise the Ottomans over which Ferdinand I had triumphed. The Ottomans were the ever-present foe of the Order of Malta, and Cotoner significantly improved Malta’s fortifications.
The tomb was commissioned by the Knights in Malta but constructed in Italy; rather amusingly, when it arrived in Valletta it became clear that the 'Angel Blower's' trumpet was too long for the space: there is therefore a small circular chunk cut out of the original wall, so as to fit the sculpture. The sculpture, extravagant even by the standards of the cathedral, was used on a Maltese £.2/6 stamp in 1956.
Cotoner continued the work of his late brother Rafaello, also Grand Master of the Order, on the cathedral of St John in Valletta, and it was under him that much of its current opulence was completed.
Gabriele Carelli was one of a family of watercolourists: his father Rafaelle had been patronised by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1830's, on his Grand Tour; his brother Consalvo painted numerous scenes of Naples and the surrounding countryside; and Gabrielle's son Conrad became a watercolourist, working around provincial England and the continent. Carelli also numbered among his patrons the Devonshire’s, the Emperor of Russia, the 1st Duke of Westminster and several further members of the English aristocracy. He travelled extensively and painted views of France, Italy, North Africa and the Near East. Late in life, the artist found favour with Queen Victoria, through Lady Waterpark, who commissioned him to record the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore House (formerly the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) between 1880-1883. Along with the Devonshire’s at Chatsworth, the Royal Collections hold a number of his works, at Osborne House and Windsor, and his watercolours can also be found in the V&A.
Francis, Lord Napier - Notes on Modern Painting at Naples - J.W. Parker, London, 1855 - pp.121-125
E. M. Eleuteri, I Carelli una generazione di pittori, Roma 1980
C. Juler, Les Orientalistes De l'Ecole Italienne, 1994, pp.46-48