THE PYRAMID OF CESTIUS, ROME
Inscribed u.m. Sepulchre Cesty, initialled l.r. M.V.O. del[?]
Pen & brown ink with red chalk, on brown prepared paper
9.9 x 19.9cm
P. & D. Colnaghi, London
Private Collection, Southwest England
P. & D. Colnaghi, London, Art in XVII Century Italy, 13th April - 13th May 1972, Cat. No. 164 (illustrated Plate LIX)
A substantial group of topographical drawings depicting English, French, Italian and Dutch views, all in the same distinctive media and many bearing identifying inscriptions of the type seen on the present work, have traditionally been linked with the name Michiel (or Michel) van Overbeek, on the basis of the initials MVO which a number of the drawings bear on the reverse or, in this instance, to the lower right.
Other highly comparable drawings of Roman views are in the collections of the British Museum, London (inv. no. 1945,1004.5); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (inv. no. 2011.225); The Morgan Library, New York (inv. no. 2009.232); and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (RP-T-1898-A-3678).
Four superb examples of London views, drawn by this idiosyncratic artist circa 1663, were recently presented on the London art market, including A view of Westminster from St. James's Park, St. James's Palace from the Park and two views in Hyde Park, by Libson & Yarker (1). A further London view was previously with Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox in their English Drawings exhibition, 24.10-15.11.1990, Cat. No. 13 (A View across the Thames to Lambeth Palace).
Michel van Overbeek was a Dutch painter and picture dealer, the nephew of the topographical draughtsman Bonaventure van Overbeek. The older Overbeeck was born and died in Amsterdam; but it was his Les restes de l'ancienne Rome (1709) that won him fame during his lifetime. Dedicated to Queen Anne, the book was - according to Arnold Houbraken - published posthumously by Michiel van Overbeek. Like his uncle, Michiel seems to have travelled extensively in France and Italy and made what appears to be a brief stay in England from about 1663 until 1666. Michiel's topographical views are almost entirely on small sections of paper around the same dimensions of the present work, prepared in brown wash and inscribed at the upper middle in ink. They differ considerably from the few known autograph drawings by his uncle of Rome, which do not offer the same extensive topographical views but (as one would expect) focus instead on specific ruins.
* At present, the RKD disputes the identity of the Monogrammist MVO as Michiel van Overbeek; however, without a supplimentary suggestion, we have decided to follow traditional attribution, pace Sotheby's, Libson & Yarker and other commercial enterprises to offer works by this intriguing artist in recent years.
(1) See The Spirit & Force: Drawing in Britain 1600–1750, exhib. cat., London, Lowell Libson & Jonny Yarker Ltd., pp. 102-105, nos. 30A, 30B, 30C and 30D, all reproduced