Carlo Brancaccio (Naples 1861 – 1920) The visit of the King of Persia Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar to the Ostend hippodrome
Watercolor on paper, 74,5 x 125 cm, signed and dated lower left: Carlo Brancaccio 1899.
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Born in 1861, the Neapolitan painter Carlo Brancaccio leaves in 1883 the mathematics studies to devote himself exclusively to the painting, guided by the advice of E. Dalbono, his close friend and painter, at the beginning of his career. Appreciated landscape painter, able to elaborate a well-liked personal research, though moving from the adoption of instances and figurative themes common to other painters active in the same period, Brancaccio favored the glimpses and views set in Naples by fixing them, as Schettini writes, in “impressions in which the precision of the landscape reference was lyrical in a spiritual and suffused atmosphere. In this way he realized in personal terms a harmonious synthesis of the two opposing ways in which landscape painting was then conceived and which was headed respectively to Dalbono and Migliaro: the first, inventor of a dream Naples, the other, precise engraver of places and faces” (see A. Schettini, Cento pittori napoletani, 1978).
Within the Brancaccio’s production, the illustration of lively everyday life scenes painted “en plein air” becomes more spontaneous and, at the same time, accurate and gracious after his transfer to Paris: in the capital of Belle Époque, in fact, the Neapolitan painter approaches a brighter palette and a more modern ductus, following the latest impressionist experiments. Just this period refers to this watercolor, in which Brancaccio painted in 1899 the Ostend racecourse, destroyed during the Second World War. The eclectic architecture of the circuit, designed in 1883 by Antoine Dujardin on an area occupied originally by the ancient Napoleonic fortress called “Fort Royal”, is depicted by the Neapolitan painter with absolute detailed attention: the small castle, the central tribune, the two towers rhythmically mark the structure of the hippodrome, which quickly became theatre of the transalpine worldly life.
The Ostend racecourse, called Wellington, headed by Duke Arthur Wellesley, who inaugurated with King Leopold II, the horses’ races held there in 1883, was also used as a prestigious place for official visits, to the Belgian town, of illustrious political personalities of the time, such as Persia Shah, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar. Just the fifth Qajar king of Persia is depicted by Brancaccio, leaning against the railing, in the foreground, in the lower part of the painting: the curious mustachio, the typical red fez, the long elegant overcoat characterize the figure of the Iranian king, surrounded by a group of notables and army officers. Authentic portrait placed by the Neapolitan painter in a vague crowd run in a daunting day in a hippodrome teeming with faces, glances, gestures, gauge of the trembling world of Belle Époque, the presence of the King of Persia makes the painting an important historic document of the relations established between East and West at the end of the 19th century.