AN EXTENSIVE VIEW OF ROME ACROSS THE TIBER, SHOWING THE PONTE ROTTO (PRE-1887) AND THE PALATINE HILL IN THE BACKGROUND
Signed & titled l.l. Gab Carelli / Roma
32 x 50 cm
The present work can be dated to between 1853 and 1887: the iron footbridge that was commissioned by Pope Pius IX is visible. The footbridge was destroyed in 1887 and in its place the Ponte Palatino was constructed. Today all that remains is a single archway. See the fourth image for a photograph from 1875 showing the bridge as it was at the time Carelli painted it.
Gabriele Carelli was one of a family of artists renowned in their native Italy and became the best-known member of the artistic dynasty in England. He was born in Naples, the second son of the artist Raffaele Carelli, a member of the School of Posilippo. Like his elder brother Consalvo, he studied first under his father, before moving (with his brother) to Rome to continue his studies.
He returned to Naples after several years in Rome and made a successful start to his career, with a studio at Largo del Vasto, close to his father’s own studio. Gabriele’s father had been patronised by William Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, since the 1830’s and had travelled with him on tours of Sicily (in 1834) and Asia Minor (1839). In 1847, Cavendish engaged the younger Carelli and brought him back to England as his personal painter. Carelli spent time on the Devonshire estates, painting the gardens and architecture, working in watercolours (unlike his father who had specialised in oils).
Carelli returned to Italy in late 1847 and partook in a failed nationalist revolt against the Bourbons, avoiding capture thanks to his father’s efforts to hide him and the younger son Achille in his studio. Gabriele avoided controversy despite this and continued to work in Naples for the next several years, falling under the influence of the Belgian artist Frans Vervloet, who had joined the Posilippo School and was working in Naples. From around 1860 onwards Gabriele spent more time in England, developing a distinguished list of clients there who employed him to paint their houses and lands.
He moved entirely to England in 1866, settling in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, and continued to use his address there until 1883. He kept rooms in London at various addresses, and married and Englishwoman in 1868, with whom he had a son, Conrad, who would grow up to become a watercolourist like his father. Carelli appears to have been somewhat kept out of British artistic circles despite his popularity and impressive list of clients. He was unsuccessful in his candidature to the N.W.S. in 1866; although he exhibited four works at the Royal Academy and exhibited elsewhere in Liverpool and Manchester. His exhibition pieces were based on sketches made on regular and extensive journeys across Britain and Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.
Following one such tour, to Spain in 1879-1880, Carelli was brought to the attention of Queen Victoria by her Lady-in-Waiting, Lady Waterpark. The Queen was a fervent collector and diligent amateur watercolourist, who patronised numerous artists throughout her long reign with an engagement and taste not seen for generations in the British monarchy. She purchased a number of works from Carelli and commissioned him to record the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore House, the results of which can be found in the Royal Collections Trust (the finest of which, showing the interior, is Inv. No. RCIN 919746).
Over the course of his career Victoria purchased more than twenty-five works by Carelli, as well as supporting his son Conrad at the beginning of his career – which would suggest more than the usual bond between patron and artist. Carelli purchased a summer home in Menton, on the French Riviera, and retired there towards the end of his life.
Among the clients he had worked for during his long and fruitful career he could number the 1st Duke of Westminster, the aforementioned Duke of Devonshire, the Emperor of Russia and Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies (despite Carelli’s anti-Bourbon sympathies) among numerous others. The Royal Collections still hold a number of his works, at Osborne House and Windsor, as well as the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Royal Institute of British Architects.
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