This Italian ‘vedute’ (view) features the Villa Mattei e Celimontana and the Chiesa di S. Stefano Rotonda at the right. We can also see the Colosseum in the background, left of centre. The enormous Pentelic marble garden vase in the foreground was clearly inspired by the Borghese vase that is now in the collection of the Musée du Louvre.
This Italianate landscape painting is a typical example of work by the Flemish painter Jan Frans van Bloemen, who was born in Antwerp but travelled South at an early age. His journey terminated in Rome, where he would live and paint the Roman campagna for the rest of his life. Jan Frans van Bloemen joined the Bentveughels, the association of Flemish and Dutch painters in the eternal city. It is here that he was nicknamed Orizzonte, or Horizon. This fitting name obviously referred to the paintings he produced, the so-called ‘vedute di Roma’; the city in landscape views with a high horizon in the distance.
This work can easily be compared to several other paintings by Van Bloemen. For example, a veduto by the artist that is now in the Galleria Pallavicini in Rome is very similar despite its smaller size and incorporates the same vase in the foreground. The Statens Museum in Copenhagen also houses a painting by Van Bloemen with figure resting by an identical vase.
Van Bloemen often collaborated with other artists, such as his older brother Pieter, for the rendering of the staffage in his arcadian landscapes but it appears that this is not the case here. This entire composition, including the figures, is by his own hand and was executed during his Roman residency.
This veduta was probably commissioned by the prosperous Borghese family, who collected numerous paintings by Van Bloemen. They even had a separate hall especially for his paintings in their princely palace: the Sala delle Pitture di Orrizonte. The artist’s relationship with the Borghese family is featured in Busiri Vici’s 1974 monography on the artist. Besides the high number of landscapes, the family was also the owner the Van Bloemen’s self-portrait as a tribute to the Flemish artist who painted so many works for the family. Many visitors to the Palazzo Borghese (not to be confused with the Villa Borghese) admired and hailed Van Bloemen's work during the nineteenth century.
The Borghese family’s enormous collection was comprised of a plethora of paintings, arts and crafts and sculptures by various artists, including Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The marriage of Camillo Borghese VI Prince of Sulmona (1755-1832) to Napoleon's sister, Pauline Bonaparte (1780-1825), forced the prince to sell many of the artworks and antique objects to his brother-in-law Napoleon Bonaparte, including the Borghese vase. These are now housed in the Louvre museum in Paris.
When the Italian bank collapsed in 1891, Camillo’s grandson Paolo Borghese IX, Prince of Sulmona, almost became destitute and was forced to auction off a large part of his collections. An export license was denied for Bernini's sculptures and were sold to the Italian state in 1902, along with the Villa Borghese and its inventory, which included door pieces by Van Bloemen. The villa’s park came into the hands of the city of Rome. Furniture and many art works from the collection “Palais du prince Borghese a Rome” were already sold at auction earlier, in the spring of 1892. This piece was one of the twenty-eight works by Van Bloemen in that sale and was thus without a doubt formerly owned by the Borghese family. Originally one of a pair, it was sold as lot 69, while its accompanying piece was catalogued under lot 68.
JOHAN FRANZ - VAN BLOEMEN . 68 . – Paysage . Village sur un terrain rocheux et élevé ; au loin des montagnes . Au milieu un cours d eau ' formant chûte : à gauche un coteau couronné demaisons et d arbres ; à droite des arbres ; figurines sur le premier et sur le second plan . Cadre doré . Tableau en largeur , m . 0. 70 X m . 1. 37
69 . – TRÈS BEAU PAYSAGE formant pendant avec le précédent . Vue du mont Palatin sur le second plan . Au loin la cam pagne romaine semée d anciennes ' constructions : collines à lhorizon ' . Sur le premier plan des arbres , une femme assise près d'un vase décoré de bas- reliefs ; vis à -vis d 'elle un homme et une femme .
Family Borghese, Villa Borghese Rome
Sale Prince Paolo Borghese, 30 March 1892, Rome, lot 69
G. Giacomini, Catalogue des objets d'art et d'ameublement qui garnissent le grand appartement au premier étage du palais du Prince Borghese à Rome, Rome, 1892, cat. no. 69
A. Busiri Vici, Jan Frans van Bloemen “Orizzonte”, Rome 1974