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ANGELO CAMPANELLA (c.1746-c.1811)

Rome | 1778 to 1783
Group of Seven Engravings with watercolour and bodycolour

Angelo Campanella (1746-1811)
Venus and Putti Bathing, Venus and Wounded Adonis, Venus and Nymph with Putti, artist Anton Raphael Mengs.
Adonis with Youth, The Drunkeness of Hercules, Venus and Adonis, Bacchus and Ariadne, artist Anton von Maron.
(Venus and Adonis, Bacchus and Ariadne engraved by Petrus Vitali.)
Published by Camillo Buti

The present group of engravings comprises the first seven from the set of twelve studies of the wall-frescoes at the Villa Negroni, Rome, on the estate of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and is one of the few surviving sets still in private hands.

The engravings are in extraordinary condition, held in grey mounts and in glazed giltwood frames. The clarity of the engraved line and the bright, fresh colours of the watercolour and bodycolour are indicative that the group have been kept in a library and protected from the light.

The discovery of Roman frescoes in a house in the grounds of the Villa Negroni on the Esquiline Hill in 1777 by Cavalier J.N. de Azara, Minister to Rome of King Carlos III of Spain, caused enormous excitement, the first decoration of its kind to be discovered in Rome since the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum.
King Carlos instructed his artist Anton Raphael Mengs (d.1790), the pre-eminent Roman artist of the day, to copy the frescoes for publication by the architect Camillo Buti. He specified that the copies should be made ‘With the most scrupulous exactness…so that one can form an idea of the taste of the ancients in this type of mixed ornamental and figural painting’. Plans, descriptions of the ‘antique rooms’ and an announcement of the first two of Angelo Campanella’s hand-coloured engravings of the ‘Arabische’ frecoes featured in the first part of Buti’s 1778 Manifesto. Anton Raphael Mengs completed the first three paintings, the remainder were executed by his brother-in-law Anton von Maron, the twelfth plate not being published until 1802.

The twelve plates were as follows;
Pl. I Venus with Putti Bathing. From same room as pl. III
Pl. II Venus and Wounded Adonis. From sane room as pls. IV and XI
Pl. III Venus and Nymph with Putti. From same room as pl. I
Pl. IV Adonis with Youth. From same room as pls. II and XI
Pl. V Drunken Hercules.
Pl. VI Venus and Adonis. From same room as pl. IX
Pl. VII Bacchus and Ariadne. From same room as pls. V and XII
Pl. VIII Minerva with Trophy.
Pl. IX Mars, Venus and Cupid.
Pl. X Sacrificial Scene.
Pl. XI Adonis. From same room as pls. II and IV
Pl. XII Satyr playing Flute, Silene and Bacchante. From same room as pls. V and VII

The engravings were hugely influential at the time of their publication. In 1778 the connoisseur Frederick Augustus Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, contemplated the building of a villa ‘Tusculum’ inspired by the Villa Negroni, he consulted the architect Sir John Soane, then in Rome, who purchased some of the Buti plates which were to influence the architecture of his own London house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Soane acquired the first eight plates for £2.8.0 at Christie’s sale of 1st May 1796 and displayed them in his Library/Breakfast Parlour, these were illustrated in an engraving of 1813. Catherine The Great had been so delighted with two paintings after the frescoes sent to her from Rome that she decided to re-decorate an entire room in this manner. In 1788-89 the central figural panels from the first eight plates were used in the decoration of the Silver Cabinet in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe-Selo, Russia.

Known examples of the plates can be found in the following important collections; Staatliche Museum, Berlin; Deutsches Archaologisches Institut, British School at Rome, Museo di Roma, Rome; British Museum, Sir John Soane Museum, V&A Museum, Royal Collection, London; Ickworth Rotunda, Suffolk.
There are copies of the Camillo Buti Manifesto in the British Library, Department of Manuscripts, Add. MS 35378, fols.316-7, and the V&A Museum, Department of Paintings, Tatham Album, p.D.1479-’98.

The engravings are discussed at great length in an article by Hetty Joyce, The Ancient Frescoes from the Villa Negroni and Their Influence in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, in the Art Bulletin, Sept. 1983, pp. 423-40.

A comparable set of the same seven plates as the present group sold at Christie’s, Mere Hall, Knutsford, 23rd May 1994, Lots 228,229,230, for £37,000.

Measurements framed;
Pl. I 30 ¼” (77cm) Wide, 27” (69cm) High
Pl. II 31½” (80cm) Wide, 27 ¼“ (69cm) High
Pl. III 30” (76cm) Wide, 26 ½” (67cm) High
Pl. IV 31” (79cm) Wide, 27” (68.5cm) High
Pl. V 36 ¾” (93.5cm) Wide, 27“ (69cm) High
Pl. VI 23 ¾” (60.5cm) Wide, 27“ (68.5cm) High
Pl. VII 37 ¼” (94.5cm) Wide, 27 ¼“ (69.5cm) High