The Biblioteca Nazionale in Rome shows off its collection of drawings by Gaspar van Wittel, also known as “Gaspare deglio occhiali” (Casper the bespectacled one) who was one of the first painters to turn his attention to the city. Vanvitelli – as his name was italianized – spent many years in Rome, capturing some loving portraits of the Eternal City.
He is credited with single-handedly inventing the urban “veduta;” (city-panorama) tradition in painting, in Italy. His drawings are both timeless snapshots of the city – as it was – and records of the inexorable weight of the passage of time. He was one of the first artists to date his works; one of the earliest is a tiny “1682” barely legible, in the corner of his drawing of the Campovaccino. The dates appear to belie his urge to want to fix his subject in time, in his drawings and paintings.
The exhibition features some 50 “fogli” – drawings, mostly of Rome, from the Biblioteca Nazionale’s own collection and is curated by: Margherita Breccia Fratadocchi, and Paola Puglisi.
Gaspar (or Kaspar) Wittel (or Vittel, aka Vanvitelli) aka “Gaspare degli occhiali”,
Dutch artist born in 1653
Dutch painter, known in Italy as Gaspare Vanvitelli. He received his first training at Amersfoort, Holland, although he was in Rome by the time of the Jubilee of 1675. He worked as a draughtsman on a scheme for regulating the Tiber and this probably gave him the idea of making large and very accurate topographical drawings which could be worked up into ‘vedute’; he therefore be the link between Dutch topographical painters like van der Heyden and later Italian ‘vedutisti’. He is now recognized as an extremely important forerunner of painters like Carlevaris, Canaletto and Pannini, since there are dated Roman vedute by him of 1681.
He went to Venice in the 1690s and there is a dated veduta of 1697 (Prado, Madrid), which antedates Carlevaris. He was in Naples when his son Luigi Vanvitelli [12 May 1700–], later the great Neapolitan architect, was born. He spent his last years in Naples and Rome, where he died. He was nicknamed ‘Gaspare degli Occhiali’ from at least 1712, and his short sight may have prevented his working after c. 1730.
Read the rest of Gaspar’s biography – and see more city portraits, at the Safran Arts website, linked here.
Read the Wikipedia article, on Gaspar van Wittel… aka “Gaspare degli occhiali,” linked here.
Gaspar van Wittel
Gaspar van Wittel: i disegni. La collezione della Biblioteca Nazionale di Roma
Until the 13th of July, 2013
FREE and open to the public
Visit the Biblioteca Nazionale website, linked here.