Photo credit: Compton Verney
Is there any way to identify the subject of this rather splendid portrait?
The collection comments: ‘Bonito was known for his portraits of the Neapolitan royal family and nobility, but apart from thoughts that this was an architect since he is dressed in an elaborate silk waistcoat and shows a design for a tomb monument, probably his own, nothing more is known about his identity, so any thoughts from a public discussion would be most welcome.’
The image on the tombstone is the sitter's own, taken from this portrait, the head tilted at the same angle. See detail 1.
The paper on the table looks like a map. Could it be the Bay of Naples with Ischia to the left? See detail 2. These features are hard to see on Art UK's image.
The epitaph "Dalla cuna alla Tomba e un breve passo" is the closing verse of the poem "Miseria della vita Umana" by Giovanbattista Marino, a poet who was born in Naples in 1569 and died there in 1625.
The dress needs to be dated. The implements on the table seen in the second detail above are consistent with architect's tools.
What would be worth investigating is if the monument survives: comparison with any photos of church monuments in the Naples area?
Do you have a closer view of the heraldry on the tomb drawing, please? That may help. I am going to ask Twitter friends on tombs and mounuments.
The monument looks rather generic, meaning not distinctive enough to be readily identifiable now if it survives (assuming it was ever built).
I've found a site with Heraldry of the South, and it may be possible to identify the shield by browsing…
I've attached another detail, but I'm afraid the resolution of the original isn't up to zooming.
Compton Verney is open again, so they may be able to provide a better one.
Marion, the sitter would appear to be holding a piece of paper in his right hand. It that is what it is, can you check to see if there is decipherable writing on it?
The poetic line translates as "From the cradle to the grave is a short step".
Kieran, it's just the upturned lace cuff.
Oooops! I should have read the information panel first!!! Sincere apologies.
Many thanks Marion. Sometimes the online images are not large enough to be able to see at that level of detail.
I cannot make out the arms on the shield on the monument. Can we have a HR detail, please?
Raymond, please read the comments above, where you will find a detail attached, which is the best I can obtain from Art UK's image.
From what I can make out of the 'heraldry' it looks a bit like a rainbow with a bird flying (as in a referecne to the story of Noah). This wouldn't be stardard heraldic language, and even if my identifation of the imaergy is wrong, that bendy thing is defintely not one of the started bars of heraldry. So I think it's probably more of a personal impresa (an emblematic device that indicates something about the sitter, usually cryptically), rather that heraldry (wehihc refers to his lineage only).
Whoops, should have proof-read that! I'll leave my typos for others to wince at!
Perhaps as a starting point, Wikipedia has a list of 'Architects from Naples': https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Architects_from_Naples
Of those listed, only these were alive/working in the 18th century:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelo_Carasale (who worked on the church of the Graziella al Porto, which apparently has a painting by Bonito on the altar: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graziella_al_Porto_Napoli)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Battista_Nauclerio (possibly too old for this portrait)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinando_Sanfelice (again, possibly too old)
...and finally: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luigi_Vanvitelli (there are other portraits of him extant, so could be compared (see e.g. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Luigi_Vanvitelli) – I think he also drafted the Bay of Naples map seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdctsevilla/23098744423/ which perhaps ties up with the detail in this portrait?)
We need a date based on the dress and hair from a suitable expert so we can try to match the sitter's apparent age at that date with the vital dates for the various Neapolitan architects.
To me, this looks like second half of the 18th century, but it should be possible to narrow that down to a smaller time span.
Carasale, Nauclerio and Sanfelice are probably too early. Of the other five, Vanvitelli (1700-1773) was undoubtedly the most important.
Here is a 1765 portrait of Vanvitelli:
I could be imagining it, but the vaguely puffy or chubby face and relatively 'weak' eyes in the Bonito portrait might be a younger version of the same features in the known Vanvitelli portrait.
I don't have a problem with that being a genuine coat of arms - continental arms often have more pictorial elements than we're used to in much British heraldry. The "bendy thing" is either a 'bend enarched' (i.e. a curved diagonal stripe, rare in Britain), or possibly a rainbow; the (?)bird with wings spread above is too small to identify, but yes, it could be a dove; and there seem to be three small charges bottom left. Something between a pair of stars or roundels, perhaps, but they could be anything. And I doubt they'll get much clearer however good the image, as by my estimation the whole escutcheon is only about 15 mm high in the original painting. On my screen that's as per the attached, slightly enhanced image.
Nevertheless, I agree that the overall shape of the blazon & its charges is (if not fictive) distinctive enough to be potentially identifiable by comparison. A long job, unless someone is familiar with the language of Italian heraldry - or perhaps French, as the best works on continental arms (e.g. Rietstap's Armorial Général) tend to be written in French. There were also illustrations of most of Rietstap's blazons published later by Rolland, and some of those are online.
If this is a portrait of Luigi Vanvitelli, then it is more likely that to Dutch heraldic tradition one should look if the coat of arms are to be identified. His surname is just an Italian version of van Wittel (Van-Vitelli), his father having been the Dutch-born painter Gaspar van Wittel (Amersfoort, 1652/3 - Rome, 1736).
The statue to Luigi in the Italian town of Caserta (36km directly north of Naples) is worth considering for the sartorial similarities between it and this painting, whatever about the possible facial ones (see attached).
It is also with noting that, at the base of the statue, is the town's coat of arms (also attached), not those of Vanvitelli. As the arms of Campania, the region wherein Caserta lies, are of a simple diagonal band top left to bottom right, it could be that arms on the tomb design represent a place and not a family:
Vanvitelli was buried in the church of San Francesco di Paola, in Caserta. If the design in the portrait was to be for his tomb, it might never have been built, as he is memorialised on on internal church wall only by a simple plaque erected in 1879:
Also, attached is a composite of maps for an extreeeeeeeeeeemly wild suggestion. Given that artists from this period almost never never did things by accident, there is a possibility that, IF the portrait is of Vanvitelli, the painter purposefully placed the corner of the tomb slab exactly over the place where the town of Caserta would be on the map in the painting, signifying either the place where the sitter lived or where he wished to be buried.
I know that this is a very fanciful notion, and is possibly tainted by the fact that it is nearly 3.30am, when a certain delirium has set in. But if, as Marion has suggested, the map does depict the Bay of Naples, and if the statue in Caserta does hold credible similarities to the subject in the painting, then there there might be some worth to having suggested this idea. I will await the fusillade to shoot it down.
I am not wholly convinced by the architect idea. It is not unknown for technically-minded gentlemen to design their own tombs, and the section of building in the background seems a bit too generalized and insignificant to represent architectural achievement. The tomb may in any case be there to show that the sitter is dead - a posthhumous likeness. And why a map - wouldn't a building design be a more appropriate attribute for an architect? It's true we have the dividers (and something else - a measuring staff?), and Vanvitelli wields a pair in his 1765 portrait - but architects are far from the only people who use(d) them.
Looking carefully at the map, we see a section of coastline with a road marked in orange running alongside it. The coast section at the bottom (as we look at it) apparently has a darker edge to it - cliffs, perhaps? There is what may be a further section of coast on the left of the map (it's hard to tell); it could perhaps be an island or just a promontory from further along the same coast with a bay between. I don't think it can be Ischia, though. Bear in mind that what we see as the bottom may actually be the right-hand side of a chart facing the sitter - is that the edge of a decorated cartouche peeping out from behind the rolled-up part? - and also that maps are not necessarily oriented with north at the top (as the 1754 map linked to by Andrew demonstrates).
Wherever it is, the inclusion of such a marked-up map in a portrait suggests to me that that's the man's area of business and/or achievement. I would suggest a surveyor / engineer, professional or amateur (dividers would have been part of his kit), and that he was responsible for building, or at least proposing a new coastal road. He could, of course, have been an architect as well, and Vanvitelli certainly had engineering skills - he designed bridges and aqueducts as well as buildings. But I'm not sure road-building carried quiet the same gentlemanly cachet.
As for the "measuring staff", Vanvitelli himself featured similar instruments in one of several of his designs for engravings of alphabet letters, in this case for the letter C.
Also attached is another portrait of Vanvitelli for comparison purposes.
The portrait was sold by Christie's in 2002:
Regrettably there is no catalogue info on the provenance. From their notes it seems they attributed the painting to Bonito on the advice of Professor Riccardo Lattuada. Which may suggest that prior to 2002 the portrait had an different or anonymous attribution.
On the map- just below the gold pointer/staff and above the right hand point of the compasses- does it say " SAXONS" ?????
If so we might not be looking at a map of Italy.
The collection themselves date the picture to around 1750, which would fit in with the turnbacks on the sleeves, length of the undercoat etc, though such features are around for quite a long period mid-century. I did wonder if Luigi Vanvitelli (born 1700) was to old for a portrait of that date, but if the later portrait is 1765, perhaps not.
That said what Vanvitelli, who Wiki describes as "The most prominent 18th-century architect of Italy", is most famous for is the largest palace in the world, the Reggia di Caserta:
it wasn't started till 1752, but even if this is painted before that you can't imagine Vanvitelli being painted showing a coast road (if that's what it is) and a design for a tomb as his main achievements - even if there was evidence for either existing. A gentleman amateur still seems more likely.
There was a related picture sold at the Dorotheum in 2013:
of "a lady of the Neapolitan nobility on a chair, an arcade and park beyond" which was identified as a Bonito by Professor Nicola Spinosa in this case and which the sale notes explicitly link to the Compton Verney picture, though the latter is a bit bigger so they probably aren't a pair.
I'm not really convinced by the map as the Bay of Naples because it doesn't really account for remaining land under the dividers. But the Kingdom of Naples had a lot of coastline, so there may be other candidates.
Marion, a fruitful area of investigation might be the very bottom of the tombstone where there are a series of letters that presumably form part of a longer word or sentence (see attached). The collection might need to re-examine or send a clearer photo of this part of the painting if what is written there is to be deciphered.
Sticking with the Vanvitelli thread for the moment, both he and Giuseppe Bonito knew and worked with each other, in Caserta, for the court of Charles of Bourbon, King of Naples and Sicily, later Charles III of Spain. Vanvitelli was the architect who designed the gigantic Royal Palace at Caserta, and Bonito was the painter of a portrait of Charles, as well as of other religious paintings that were installed in churches in the town. The painter is mentioned a few times by Vanvitelli in his large body of manuscripts and correspondence, which was archived and reproduced in print in 2000 by Antonio Gianfrotta in his 'Manoscritti di Luigi Vanvitelli nell’archivio della Reggia di Caserta 1752 - 1773'
Bonito's portrait of Charles can be seen here:
The University of California said of Vanvitelli's writings:
"His 'Dichiarazione dei disegni del Reale Palazzo di Caserta (1756)', documenting the magnificent palace he designed for King Charles Bourbon, is among the most lavish books of its time. Its analysis illuminates how the architect interacted with the printed page and how books influenced architecture in the eighteenth century."
The book can be seen here:
Interestingly, on the title page is a small engraving of putti, one holding up the crown that features is the previously posted image for the letter C (for Charles?) and also one holding the same style of Osmund's "measuring staff" as is featured in the C engraving and in this portrait. I believe that this instrument is, in fact, a typical architect's drafting pen, which would add further to the idea that the sitter is of that professional persuasion.
As for the original attribution by Professor Riccardo Lattuada, it is curious that he did not (as far as I know) identify the sitter as Vanvitelli, especially as his academic home is the Università della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli. Perhaps he should be invited to comment on this Discussion.
A detailed account of Vanvitelli's life can be found here:
A drawing (supposedly) of Vanvitelli can be see here, within which he is seen holding a drafting pen. The dividers are lying on the table in front of him:
Even if it cannot be proven, it seems reasonably plausible that the sitter is Vanvitelli. Thus, the title could be "Portrait of an Architect (possibly Luigi Vanvitelli)"
It would certainly be worth having the thoughts of Professor Riccardo Lattuada as to the identity of the sitter. He is a contributor to this discussion board, being the first to propose the attribution, now firmly accepted, to Hendrick de Somer for the York St John the Baptist:
Re the drawing illustrating the Baroque.it biography, the sitter is surely holding a porte-crayon -- a metal holder with chalks of different colours at each of its two ends (usually black and white). He sits or stands in front of a canvas bearing an architectural view, seemingly propped on an easel. Whoever the sitter might be, he is presented essentially in the role of a pictorial artist rather than as an architect.
Richard, thank you for that clarification. Vanvitelli was also a painter so the question now would be is the instrument in this painting a porte-crayon or a drafting pen, or something else.
As for the coat of arms depicted on the tombstone in this discussion's painting, they are not those of the family of Van Wittel, or at least not those of Luigi's father (see attached). These can be seen on this linked site, together with details of where in Rome is Gaspar's burial place, which is also that of his wife, both of whom died in 1736:
Perhaps we should be looking for a Cartographer???
Like John Gibson ,orJacques Nicolas Bellin, or Giambattista Albrizzi, or Sieur Le Rouge ( whose maps look a bit like this one ! )or Johann Friedrich Endersch etc. I have been looking at maps trying to match the style.
I will try to contact Professor Lattuada about the portrait to see whether he has any suggestions.
I considered a cartographer, Louis, but couldn't see any logical reason why one particular road on the map - and one only - should be coloured in. I also thought about explorers, travellers and even celebrated pedestrians - I suppose it might not be a road but a path taken, and the map could be of a more distant land. But it's hard to escape the conclusion that something significant is indicated by that orange-yellow line.
Osmund- having looked closely at the orange yellow line- I think it looks like it has a knot in it- the piece from the corner of the canvas going down to a sharp bend.--so perhaps it is a piece of cord hanging from the white canvas frame.As is the other line a bit to our left- also looks like it is attached to the frame- possibly. Of course I remember in the old days using a piece of cotton or cord to trace a route on a map and then measure it to find the distance.Before technology :-)
How do we know this painting is by G Bonito ??? Is it signed ???
I ask because I have been looking at other works attributed to him , and to me Bonito's human faces all have a certain style which is not present in this painting??.
Louis if you look at the close-up of the map that Marion posted in the first comment (the second of the two details) the two coastal lines are clearly marked on the map rather than being 'three-dimensional'. The quality of the painting of the compasses and other instruments alongside it shows that Bonito could clearly have portrayed cords if he wanted. However, as you note, both lines do end in a blob though on the headland at the centre of the map, and it might be that that is significant.
Bonito doesn't normally seem to sign his pictures, but as Tim Williams pointed out above, when this one was sold at Christies in 2002, they said: "We are grateful to Professor Riccardo Lattuada for the attribution, given on the basis of photographs". Tim's link doesn't seem to work but the lot is here:
For what it's worth, looking at other Bonito pictures, this seems to have a lot of similarities to me.
While I'm giving links, there's another copy of the picture here which shows the background a bit better than the ArtUK one and emphasises just how artificial that background is:
Regarding dating, Allan Ramsay's picture of George Bristow has almost identical dress:
and is dated 1750. Though the Neapolitan sitter's clothes are clearly made of more expensive materials than those normally used by the English landed gentry - perhaps another indicator that the sitter isn't a professional.
Yes Mark -I have total agreement of 1750 ish. I look at the enlargement - as I have been doing - and the only little bit of water I see is to our left of the compass point. The rest to my opinion is inland mountains or ridges.
I still think that blob is a knot. But the orange line whatever it is-- is definitely tracing a route or journey.
I am 99% sure I can see the word " SAXONS" near the right hand compass point- and I think there is another word below it.
Trouble is- so many cracks in the paint one doesn't know which are features in the map ! :-(
If the writing is in English- perhaps an English map???
Looking at photos is not like looking at the real thing--which is what we have to do here -- as it was quite expensive- perhaps it would be a good idea to get another expert to give a second opinion after actually handling it ????
This portrait of Ambassador John Burnaby is from 1747: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/ambassador-john-burnaby-17011774-minister-to-the-swiss-at-turin-17431749-80502
The dress is similar (luxuriant waistcoat, lace cuffs etc, although no hat) but he also has a map as a prop. Even though there are 'architect tools' included, is it worth considering ambassadors?
Interesting, Andrew...but a map per se in a portrait is nothing unusual – those of aristocrats on the Grand Tour, for example, often include them: https://bit.ly/30wsnfj https://bit.ly/3jq6mGB https://bit.ly/3imil6t https://bit.ly/2So3oGs https://bit.ly/2GjQw1G https://bit.ly/3imt5BP. Like your ambassador (and others), such a man would have good reason to use a map – the question is, do the drawing instruments and the markings on the map in our portrait suggest that the sitter has a more active relationship with his? It’s possible that the instruments are for another purpose, and the map relatively incidental; but their position lying on it arguably implies a connection – and is that a pouch containing more crayons on the far right edge? I suppose at a pinch our man might be a tourist who’s been carefully measuring and marking out a planned road route, rather than the person responsible for the road.
I don’t know if Andrew found his analogue by looking at Art UK works that are tagged 'map' – is so, it demonstrates the usefulness of the tool. However, looking at the 115 other works thus tagged you can also see the problem with it: a large number of them have, on closer inspection, been wrongly tagged (e.g. https://bit.ly/2Sileeb https://bit.ly/3jw7sR9). What might look like a map in a low-res image is not at all – and in some cases (such as https://bit.ly/3iukj54) the description tells you what it actually is, if you can only be bothered to read it!
However, even such egregiously bad tagging can occasionally bear useful fruit: this late 1760s triple portrait by Batoni https://bit.ly/2GEQ5z6 shows Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn holding not a map as tagged, but (as the caption explains) a copy of a fresco...but he is also holding a brass porte-crayon that looks pretty similar to the uncertain instrument on the map/table in our portrait. There are lots more images of them in this detailed NPG research page https://bit.ly/36w8j0v , and I’m now all but convinced that is what we have too.
Could a hi-res of the area on the tombstone to the left of the red arrow in the attached image be posted please? And if it is not clear, could the collection be asked to re-photograph it, as it could be a vital clue to unravelling the identity of the sitter?
I have tried the best I could, also by trying to make the shadow more penetrable, but not very sure if this will help you.
As a side comment, this portrait is Batoni-like, albeit less velvety and more metallic, so to speak.
David, many thanks. Alas, it does not improve the clarity, so it might require a better photograph by the collection. However, I do believe that it is relevant, so possibly with the effort. Kieran
It could also be a date (of decease?), ending in 5.
Kieran (and others) – I think those marks under the tombstone are numbers. Far right is 6, then 5 (just in the shadow), then I think you can just about make out a 4 if you lighten the shadows and change the contrast.
The numbers are a scale for the size of the monument.
I agree: this is simply the measurement scale to which the design has been made. For units of measuring length in Naples before Italian unification see:
The unit in use here could be a decima, which equals 26.455 mm [around 10 3/8 inches], according to one source cited, or a palmo which equals 10.381 inches, according to another.
Richard, I think your maths is a bit awry. 26.455 mm (the Neapolitan decima) is just over *one* inch. The decima, as one might guess from the name, was one-tenth of a palmo - it is the latter that is given as 10.4 inches, give or take, which is approx 10⅜ in.
Oops! Thanks, Osmund: a palmo it is.
There does appear to be significant similarity with the Portrait by Nathaniel Dance of Charles, Lord Hope and His BrotherJames. I think the portrait is on public view at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh. Both brother spent much time on the 'Grand Tour'. Just a thought
The costume is c.1760 however, I don't think he is an architect necessarily.. the drawing is for a tomb or monument and has a small portrait to the top - possibly the sitters son?, it's just another way of including a deceased loved one, there may have been a pair to it with his wife. If his catalogue raisone includes any ladies of the same date and size, it may be possible to id him.
Charles, I think the miniature portrait on the drawing is of the sitter in this portrait. The full face, hat, clothing and tilt of his head all seem to match. https://bit.ly/3nBpynh
Might it be worth considering the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre (1702-1780)? He was the ‘archaeologist’ who prospected the estate of Charles III of Spain and oversaw finds at Herculaneum, Pompeii, Capri, Pozzuoli and Cumae. The map may well indicate some of these locations if only schematically, Cumae and Pozzuoli being west of Naples? Cumae was home of the Sybil and visited by Daedalus and relatively more famous then. He died in Naples.
Marion is surely right (as Barbara also originally suggested) that this is -in effect a bravura 'vanitas' - showing the sitter with the design for his own tomb, including replication of the head from the present portrait. Since the inscription on the detail is clear ('From the cradle to the grave is a short step') is the longer apparent inscription on the sarcophagus also readable, unless I've missed it above?
If you're referring, Pieter, to the apparent line of cursive writing along the ?torus moulding around the 'waist' of the sarcophagus, then no-one has mentioned it so far, and I hadn't even noticed it - see attached detail. It may turn out to be a phantom (most of the ones I think I can see are); and even if it's real, it may be fictive - a vague scribble by the artist to represent what someone might write on their design. But it's very much worth investigating if we can.
The problem is that if I'm right about the coat of arms being only 15 mm high on the original painting, then the writing (if it is) is tiny - just 2mm, give or take. The image in my attachment is about as clear as you can get from the largest image held by Art UK, so as with the arms we'll need a new and very detailed, in-focus close-up. If the Collection can manage a digital snap like that - and it won't be easy even if they have access and staff availability - it would be enormously helpful, as would a similar shot of the map. But these are difficult times...
Sorry: I've accidentally started a wild-goose chase. I'd hastily read Marion's cropped detail wrong in relation to the whole image: the cradle to grave lines are those on the sarcophagus. It's unlikely there is anything else.
If the scale shown is in "palmos" of c.10⅜ inches, and there appear to be nine divisions from 0 to 9 on the drawing of the tomb slab, the built monument would measure just under 8 feet in width (Osmund, please help with the exact calculation), and, judging by the drawn ratio of width to height, had it been built it would have been about 12' high, a reasonable size for an impressive graveside memorial.
Though the only numbers visible are 4-5-6, I agree that extrapolating left and right on the same scale would give a width for the plinth of 9 of the same units. Assuming them to be palmi napoletani, that would make a measurement of 7 ft 9½ in (or 9¾" using a slightly larger equivalent also given for the palmo). I can't imagine it makes any difference - indeed since I rather doubt the artist was interested in depicting tiny details of the tomb design's measurements with precision, I think it would be wiser just to say "about 7½ or 8 ft wide". I measure the height/width proportions a bit differently as 50:38 (off the screen with a ruler), or 1.32: 1 - which with my preferred approximation would equate to more like 10 or 10½ ft high. But whatever one says, I'm not sure where you're going with this...
Success- I refer to the enlargement of the map area.Above I mentioned that I could see the word "SAXONS" above the points of the compass. Also another word below it I could not decipher. Anyway I recently downloaded the enlargement to a device with a high res screen and fiddled with the settings a bit and suddenly I could see the other word---- "ROMANORUM" So I suggest that this map is of the area just to the south of Rome. There is reference above to the work of Batoni- so I would like to suggest that this is a Grand Tour painting of an English gentleman commemorating his exploring.
Louis, I have tried many times and failed to see your 'saxons' word - I'm not saying it's not there, just that I can't find it. Since you have had success not only in clarifying it, but also in revealing a new word, could you not let us see what you have found? Why not make the best image you can on your device, and then screen-grab it (Ctrl + Prnt Scrn, then Ctrl + V to put it into Paint or a similar program). Just telling us what you think is there, and hoping we'll believe you, doesn't really pass muster, I'm afraid! And do you have an explanation of what 'saxons' might mean, and how it relates to 'romanorum'?
The Grand Tourist idea has been raised before, and I agree isn't out of the question; but it's hard to square it with the tomb design, which seems to be (though not 100% certainly) the sitter's own. I only introduced the name of Batoni (which this certainly isn't) because one of his sitters holds a porte-crayon similar to the one seen on the table here.
Could someone at the collection please take a higher resolution photograph of this paining, especially the ares where the map can be seen, as well as of the coat of arms on the tomb design? Doing so might help with the question as to whether or not there are words visible, as Louis suggests.
Osmund- Kieran-I am only using the jpeg image of the map enlargement available at the start.My eventual success in reading Romanorum was on the fourth device I used- a matter of screen definition, colour pixels and contrast adjustment. The significance of Romanorum. Well- since the time of Alfred the Great and Athelstan there has been a Schola Saxonorum in Rome and a district of Rome named after the Anglo Saxons -no XIV I think- so when I saw Saxons Romanorum I considered it refered to that.
"Saxons " is easy to read. Just below the black part of the gold pencil/pointer-- level with it-- above the tip of the compassess. Don't forget to put your glasses on- I need to--and the word SAXONS is about the same length as the black part of the pointer/pencil. Perhaps the collection could look at the actual painting in that area and let us know what they see????
The collection will send us some close-up images of the areas of interest soon.
The Schola of the Saxons or the Schola Saxonum was the district in Rome established in the 8th-century AD to host visiting English pilgrims. It would probably have been known about by any cultivated 18th-century English Grand Tourist well-read in the history of England.
Thank you, Louis, for confirming that I've been looking in the right place since you first suggested this unexpected word. But I'm afraid however much I enlarge, tweak and adjust contrast, brightness, etc (which I've been naturally doing all along), I still find even 'SAXONS' a highly speculative reading; indeed at this resolution I'm far from sure that either is a word at all - for me the image begins to break down into its component pixels long before it's big enough to read what, if anything is written there. You do realize that the letters of the 'words' (if that's what they are) can only be around 2 or 3 mm high on the original painting ?
Anyway, let's hope we get a clearer view with the anticipated close-ups. I will be genuinely delighted to be proved wrong!
Louis, is what you are seeing in the highlighted area of this attachment?
Kieran-- Yes. And I can see SAXONS clearly on your black and white image- no further enlargement needed- just my reading specs--get up close to screen- six inches does it for me--. SAXONS just above the centre line of the box-centrally placed-- occupying half the width. Am using a Dell Inspiron desk top with Dell screen.
Would "SAVOIE" or "SAVOIA" be an acceptable alternative reading to SAXONS? That might mean that the map, instead of showing a coastline (none of which has been convincingly identified), might show a route through the Alps?
Alison-- sorry, but I cannot see" SAVOIE"-- just "SAXONS". I had originally thought of Lower Saxony and lake Konstance until I deciphered ROMANORUM--- which you can just see ,if you are looking for it --just below SAXONS in the highlighted box in Kierans black and white image.
The best solution will be when the collection eyeball the painting with a magnifying glass or a loupe-- and tell us what they see optically . Digitally enlarging a jpeg "succesfully" is not easy--- if you understand what I mean.
I think that this is certainly the Bay of Naples and Ischia, but the artist had to deform the map very slightly to get in Vesuvius, and to relocate Ischia, both of which would otherwise (correctly) be slightly ‘off the table’. The orange lines from the North and from the east meet at an orange blob that marks the ruins of Pozzuoli. To the west there is not just the island of Ischia (and the red line on it indicating the roman ruins of ancient Aenaria) but also the small island of Procida (outlined only in black, hanging off the table). If you look carefully, too, as the orange road comes from the north, it branches (at Cumae), one going south, down to Pozzuoli (Misenum) and the other going southeast, where it rejoins the thicker orange road that heads east from Possuoli to Naples and then on past Naples and past Mt. Vesuvius (also marked on the painted map). The split in the road exactly matches to Roman roads in this vicinity.
That the map concerns Naples, that the quotation is taken from the most famous of poets from the city and that the artist lived in Naples suggests that this work has something to do with Naples. That the painting has the dividers and rod of a surveyor suggests that this relates to a surveyor. And that the map is slightly deformed in the way that it is, to highlight certain roads marked in orange leads me to suspect that this map relates to a surveyor of the orange part of the road.
This is no ordinary road, as it takes in (a) the ancient Greek ruins of Cumae, the Roman town of Pozzuoli, Herculaneum and Pompeii – all of which were being investigated and surveyed from the 1730s, and (b) a coast line that was found to have fallen and risen since Roman times (especially at Pozzuoli), helping to understand Geology (which at the time was also helping to understand the Creation). This was ‘not just a road’. It was also a Roman Road.
There were two leading surveyors closely associated with the Bourbon Royalty of Naples. One was the Dutch surveyor, Luigi Vanvitelli (1700-1773) who has already been suggested a contender for this portrait, who amongst much, designed the Palace of Caserta for Charles VII of Naples. He has to be considered. The other was the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre (1702-1780) who in 1730s designed and built Charles VII palace of Portici (where and when he helped discovered Herculaneum), and where he and the artist Bonito, both lived. Alcubierre is also famous for his surveys along the road, and for his archaeological investigations at Cumae, Pozzuoli, Herculaneum etc.
It is hard to discern, exactly, the arms on the tomb of this painting, but it seems to me that they are most probably the arms of Alcubierre (if the arms of Alcubierre to be found on the net are correct) as both seem to share two mallets to the bottom left, both share the same diagonal strip (but I can’t make out if the tomb version has a fish in it, and is the ‘bird’ perhaps it is a leafy branch. There is thus much to suggest Alcubierre.
Here is Alcubierre (whose first name was Roque, by the way, not Rocque). The face looks different to me compared to ours, who seems closer to Vanvitelli:
Sorry, but the two portraits in the linked piece in my preceding comment are *not* of Alcubierre but of Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Thus, the fact they do not look like our man is irrelevant, since they are of someone else. That means that yes, our man could be Alcubierre.
By the way, James, I think you have made a potentially key contribution to this discussion, and I hope I did not offend by making a minor spelling correction. The name Roque is after San Roque, the Spanish version of the French Saint Roch, which is Rocco in Italian.
This is subjective, but to me our man looks more Latin than Dutch.
Also, should this be accepted as Alcubierre, he is a somewhat controversial figure whose archeological work may have been maligned and misrepresented by antagonistic figures, including the much more famous Winckelmann, but we can delve into that later.
As to the previously floated cartographer idea, I think it can be dismissed. The elucidated map details are much more in keeping with a surveyor/architect, and this is too grand a portrait for a cartographer, who is or was a considerably less glamorous figure than a royal architect.
I'd like to thank Charlotte Fox at Compton Verney for the excellent close-up images attached.
Those are outstanding - thank you, Charlotte.
I'm afraid that, as anticipated (at least by me), there is no discernible writing on the map. The human eye and brain has evolved to try and make sense of all incoming data. When faced with a mass of random marks in a pixellated low-res image of a page or painting, it attempts to make some logical order out of the chaos - often in the form of seeing words that just are not there. Older hands here will have seen this time and again - I used to be an avid spotter of usually non-existent inscriptions, and it's nothing to be ashamed of...it just means you're a fully-functioning homo sapiens!
Also in the bin is the Alcubierre idea, at least as far as the coat-of-arms is concerned. The charge in chief (i.e. at the top) is indeed a flying bird of some sort (not a branch), there is no fish on the bend (the diagonal stripe); and while the charges in base are still unclear (I think probably three stars), they are certainly not crossed mallets.
Charlottes enlargements. I look and can see no writing-- ah well. BTW. Are Charlottes photo close ups done using an optical lens- or a digital enlargement???
Funny thing- when I stand 3 feet back from the computer screen- Charlottes enlargment of compass dividers area- I can again see " SAXONS" Wierd or whot ?????