Achille Vianelli (Porto Maurizio 1803 – Benevento 1894), Piazza della Rotonda, Rome
Pencil and brown watercolor on cardboard of 22 x 36 cm signed (Vianelli) in the lower right corner, located (Piazza della Rotonda, Rome) and dated (1837).
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Pupil of W. Huber and AS Pitloo in Naples, one of the founders of the Posillipo school, Achille Vianelli portrays Piazza della Rotonda in this Roman view, a work that stands out for its topographical acribity combined with an anecdotal taste that lightens the view, made with soft chiaroscuro and chromatic passages. The name of the square derives from the famous circular monument that characterizes it, the Pantheon, the most intact of all the monuments of ancient imperial Rome. This peculiarity is mainly explained by the donation made in 608 by the Byzantine emperor Foca to Pope Boniface IV and the subsequent transformation into a church, with the name of “S. Maria ad Martyres” (609 AD).
Vianelli’s attention focuses in particular on the imposing bulk of the temple, depicted with the bell towers designed by Bernini in the seventeenth century and removed in 1894 by Minister Baccelli who also owed the restoration of the bronze inscription on the facade. The demolition of the two bell towers designed by the great Baroque artist was welcomed with benevolence by the Roman intellectual circles of the time. In a chronicle of the time, in fact, we read: “Minister Baccelli overthrowing in an hour the old obstacles posed by greed and ignorance, satisfied a secular vote of science and the Romans. On July 7, in the presence of the minister and of the archaeological commission, the first blows of pickaxe were given to the unworthy habitats, which disfigure the most illustrious monument in the world, our Pantheon…”. During the period in which the monarchy reigned in Italy, the Pantheon was used to receive the sepulchres of the Savoy royal family. Vittorio Emanuele II was eaten in the right semicircular niche while Umberto I and Margherita were buried in the radially opposite niche.
Very particular, the “donkey ears”, to call them with a playful nickname of the time, were definitely out of the classical canons of the Pantheon. In 1270 a small bell tower had already been built but Bernini’s successors certainly created controversy. The architect had a troubled relationship with the Pantheon: the bronzes that decorated the pediment, the letters of the dedication, the bronze roof tiles and the beams of the pronaos were cast. In the latter case, having used them for San Pietro, the sacking authorized by Pope Urban VIII Barberini gave way to the Roman people to give life to one of the most famous pasquinate: “Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini”.