Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Continental European after 1800, Maritime Subjects 27 Who painted this classical harbour scene?

Classical Maritime Scene
Topic: Artist

This painting is inscribed on the wall (lower right, next to the chain, on the stone nearest the water): JUSTUS RUZLYNA/ ROMA.

A close-up of the inscription is attached and the information in the painting description (above right and on Art UK) may be helpful.

Can anyone identify the artist?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

1 attachment

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This painting has been identified as 'Reconstruction of the Ancient Port of Rome' ('Reconstrucción del antiguo puerto de Roma', the title under which it was exhibited at Madrid in 1892) and is by Justo Ruiz Luna (1865–1926). These changes will appear on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. To those viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Artnet and other auction websites list Justo Ruiz Luna, Spanish artist, 1860 or '65-1926 which may well be the man. He is of the right period and certainly had a maritime specialism. He presumably classicized his name for the Roman harbour scene.

Ruiz Luna is even represented in the Prado, and their website provides this good biography which confirms his strong association with Rome ( Google translation, mildly edited):

"Spanish painter. After studying mercantile expertise and before entering the School of Fine Arts, where he remained between 1882 and 1884, he spent some time in Rome, where he interacted with Spanish artists. He repeated this stay on other occasions, in the company of his friend Salvador Viniegra, to work with José Villegas, whom he always considered his teacher. In 1886 he exhibited at the Ateneo de Madrid with other students of Villegas and the following year he went to the National Exhibition of Fine Arts with Remains of a Shipwreck, which won an honorable mention. With this painting he began a prestigious career as a marine artist which placed him at the head of the Cadiz school of the time. In 1888 he sent, from Rome, an historical subject, titled 'Ostia', to the International Exhibition at Munich, and to the Exhibition of Barcelona an oil representing a shipwreck. He returned to show in 1890 an historical-themed painting, 'Naval Combat in Trafalgar', with which he won a first medal. Shortly afterwards he went to work as an inspector in the Transatlantic Company and, as a result, abandoned his travels to Italy and the regular practice of painting, although he made numerous paintings of maritime scenes and images of the ships owned by the company. However, in 1890 the Academy of Fine Arts of Cadiz appointed him a member and two years later he exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Munich, where won second medal, and the National exhibition at Madrid, with ten canvases, including the monumental 'October in 1492', with which he won a bronze medal at the Universal Exhibition of Chicago in 1893 (Museo de Cádiz). In 1895 he returned to participate in the exhibition in Madrid with several works, including the canvas 'Lepanto'. In 1901 he returned to Rome, where he spent several months working on a collection of pastel drawings. The Prado has a good representation of his works on cardboard made in Italy."

I wonder if the Barrow-in-Furness picture is 'Ostia'?

Victor Rafael Veronesi ,

I've tried to get a closer look to a publication in Google books (the 'original 'one had probably been digitized by the LA University of Wisconsin, Madison, and is owned by that library) with some 'common bibliographical troubles' with that device (very useful perhaps) . The volume n. 47 of the review "Nord und Sud" curated by Paul Lindau ( Berlin , Verlag Von Georg Stilke ) had an article of Ludwig Pfau named "Aus der Münchener Kunstausstellung des Jahres 1888" (On the Arts exhibition of Munich of the year 1888, pages 59, 210, 555, instead of the ones reported by google books as ...350 ...etc...) that had mentioned in one of its pages (probably wrongly reported as 352) this painting with those words" (...) shows a similar feeling Justus Ruiz Luna "The old harbor of Ostia" from Rome". Non doubt about the painting by the title and the signature. Maybe with the full view of the publication an eventually the guide of the show and some German journals is probably possible to know more on the picture, also eventually by the back (some wax marks, or stamps of the custom?).

Victor Rafael Veronesi ,

Sorry for some mistakes made here over: lines 10 - 11 : " Shows a similar feeling 'The Old harbour of Ostia ' of Justus Ruiz Luna, from Rome "; line 11 No for Non .

Victor Rafael Veronesi ,

The catalogue of the show of 1888 that is fully readable on ( give us a suppletive information on the picture: it was exhibited under number 2001 at the over mentioned
German manifestation. Many other shows not reported by Prado's museum reference can be tracked by doing a search in with keywords "Ruiz-Luna" (some exhibitions in Berlin and Munich of the first years of the XX century) .

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

In the Spanish newspaper 'La Iberia', published in Madrid on Monday 5th December 1892, an art "aficionado" presented his impressions of the recent 'Exposición de Bellas Artes' (Exhibition of Fine Art), and included in it the following description of a painting by Ruiz Luna, the original of which is attached and which is here translated as best as I can manage:

"'Reconstruction of the Old Port of Rome', of Mr. Ruiz Luna, is good in what it has of the marina; in the rest it is quite unequal, because while there are admirable passages, like the mooring wall, the buildings on the right seem to me to be too hard of line and of torque, and I believe that the ships also move away from the tonality that corresponds to the rest of the composition. And I do not say that because of the purple color, which is well used, although excessively."

That this work was exhibited in 1892 and that this discussion's painting was gifted by the Spanish Government to Captain Walker in 1895 at least places both of them in an exactly appropriate time-frame for this painting possibly being the one described in the newspaper report. It is not inconceivable, additionally, that it is also the painting described above, though without the additional word of 'Ostia' included in its title. Ruiz Luna's '12th October 1492', a large painting that represented the departure of the fleet of Christopher Columbus on its journey to the Americas, was also exhibited in this 1892 exhibition, along with a number of other small maritime works. There might be a catalogue of this exhibition in Madrid, which could give the dimensions of the works shown. If so, it could confirm the correct title and the painter's identity.

Kieran Owens,

Apologies, the word torque above should read touch......"too hard of line and of touch"....

Kieran Owens,

Oh the wonders of the internet!!! Attached is the catalogue entry for all of the works submitted by Ruiz Luna to the 1892 exhibition, together with a very short biographical notice. The relevant entry reads:

"'Reconstrucción del antiguo puerto de Roma' - Alto, 43 centímetros, - Ancho, 83 centímetros" (43cm x 83cm)

These dimensions are very close to those as given in the information panel of this discussion, i.e. 40cm x 79.5cm. Perhaps the lost 3 or so centimetres are accounted for by the overlap of the frame by this amount.

The biographical reference as translated roughly reads:

"Ruiz Luna (D(on) Justo), born in Cádiz, a pupil of D(on) José Villegas; Awarded a certificate of honour in the National Exhibition of 1887; 3rd class medal in the Barcelona Universal (exhibition); 1st class in the national (Exhibition) of 1890 and gold in that (exhibition) of Munich."

The size looks very close to no. 1115 the '...ancient port of Rome' exhibited at Madrid in 1892, which is probably also no.2001 at Munich in 1888 as 'The old harbour at Ostia'. If so, given that Luna's address is given as 'Rom' in 1888, it was probably painted there shortly before. Could Barrow kindly check their painting's stretcher dimensions and if there is still a slight variation from the Madrid figures of 43 x 83 mm also say if it has been lined or not, which can sometimes account for minor changes.

As to artist it looks like 'fait accompli' - though perhaps 'quod erat demonstrandum' would be more appropriate: Justo Ruiz Luna, b. and d. Cadiz, 1865-1926, assuming the Prado has the b. date right.

Could we also see a larger image of the whole? It's not Alma-Tadema but it would be good to see more detail of the rostral column and other quay features, and the ships. I've no recollection of seeing stone mooring rings like that before and wonder what his source was?

Osmund Bullock,

Well, assuming Kieran is right about the frame rebate accounting for the slight size discrepancy (which seems likely), that seems to have been sorted out remarkably quickly. Well done all.

The only thing I'll add is that the link to the work on the Collection website seems to be obsolete - it's now to be found at The small image there in fact shows the (clearly original) frame, which is a splendid affair adorned with nautical ropes and chains, and surmounted by the Royal arms of both Britain and Spain.

P.S. I've deliberately left a full-stop next to the link I give as an experiment - I've just noticed (in posts above by Andrew and Victor) that they now seem to work with immediately adjacent brackets. If so, it is very good news. The link spacing issue has been an annoyance for years, and I fear a bit off-putting for newcomers. Is this another of your achievements, Marion?

Kieran Owens,

The artist's name is referred to using the first name Justo almost always over the course of his working life, except, it would appear, in the year 1890. In this year, in the exhibition catalogue listing for his 'Trafalgar' painting, and in the Spanish newspapers in May and June of that year, he is referred to as Julio. A sample sequence of entries in the catalogues for the Exposición de Bellas Artes reads:

1884 - No entry
1887 - Justo Ruiz Luna, Almudena, 3, Principal, Madrid
1890 - Julio Ruiz Luna, Aduana, 3, Madrid
1892 - Justo Ruiz Luna, resident of Cadiz
1894 - Justo Ruiz Luna - Calle Nueva, 42, Puerto Real, Cadiz
1897 - Justo Ruiz Luna, resident of Cadiz
1899 - Justo Ruiz Luna, resident of Cadiz
1904 - Justo Ruiz Luna, Calle Lope de Vega, 55 to 61 (Madrid?)
1906 - Justo Ruiz Luna, no address given

In Cadiz today, one can find a street named after the artist, Calle Pintor Justo Ruiz Luna. In 1999, a book was published by Carmen Ruiz Casas, entitled 'La Bahía de Cadiz y El Pintor Justo Ruiz Luna (1865 - 1926)'.

Kieran Owens,

Well done Osmund on finding the birth certificate. On a small technical note, the surname would be Ruiz Luna or, in the old-fashioned style, Ruiz y Luna, indicating the paternal and maternal names in that order. Ruiz de Luna would be a female's name, indicating that Ruiz was the wife or widow of Luna, which is obviously note the case here.

Andrew, those Pompeian moorings are a super find. Th photogrtaph lends such credence to the accuracy of the painted image. Are the ships in a style that also is credible or are they fanciful imaginings?

Kieran Owens,

Clumsy fingers again..The photograph.....

That all helps: 'semper aliquid novum' as regards the mooring rings, which is just failure of observation or memory on my part as the Torlonia relief is a standard reference, let alone the extant examples now provided by Andrew. The translation of the frame plaque on the collection site could be a bit better though Spanish isn't my forte and its clear enough that Captain Walker took a disabled Spanish ship in tow: ' A gift of gratitude offered by the Transatlantic Company of Barcelona to Captain Mr G Walker of the English steamship “Ardandhu” for the swift help given by his vessel to the mail steamer “Cataluña” in the Providence Channel' (which is the main inter-island channel of the Bahamas).

Assuming the canvas measurements do match those recorded in 1892 (43 x 83 cm) the title probably ought to change to that used then, even though it is probably the same work called 'ancient Ostia' in 1888: 'Reconstruction of the ancient port of Rome (Ostia)' would cover both accurately.

Osmund Bullock,

Pure fluke, Kieran - it was in the first place I looked (FamilySearch). I would agree with you about 'Luna'...if the name of his mother's father were not given as 'Don Sanché[?o] de Luna'! And in fact 'de Luna' turns out to be a not uncommon surname, of ancient and noble Spanish origin but now pretty widespread. The C16th Conquistador who tried to found the first permanent European colony in North America was called Don Tristán de Luna (y Arellano).

So technically Justo does seem to have been 'Ruiz [y] de Luna', but like many chose to simplify it.

Subject to receiving confirmation of the exact canvas dimensions, and with thanks all round, I'm seizing this Classical harbour as a 'maritime subject' and suggesting it is (a) by the Spanish artist now identified (b) that it appears to be the picture shown at Madrid in 1892 and probably also at Munich in 1888; and therefore (c) -also subject to collection view - this suggests it should be reconnected with at least its 1892 title, rendered as 'Reconstruction of the ancient port of Rome (Ostia)'.

Kieran Owens,

Well argued Osmund and totally correct.

The curator at the collection is on maternity leave. The Collection and Exhibitions Manager, who is providing cover, will measure the picture soon.

Well spotted Andrea. If the measurement check shows beyond reasonable doubt that the Barrow picture is likely to be that exhibited at Madrid in 1892 (43 x 83 cm), the current recommendation for reviving its original title there remains sound.

The existence of a 124 x 220 'Ostiae' last seen at a Berlin auction in 1934 (in a black frame) does suggest that might have been 'The old harbour at Ostia' shown as no. 2001 at Munich in 1888; so its really just a case of noting there was a larger one as well, be it a considerable variant of the subject or, perhaps, a 'prime version' and the Barrow canvas a later reduction - though we may never know.

Thank you very much to the collection for measuring the picture, and for attaching excellent photographs of the frame and stretcher. The stretcher measurements, 43 x 82 cm, suggest this is highly likely to be the picture exhibited at Madrid in 1892.

The frame measures 72 x 108 cm (the height 81 cm when the coat of arms is included).

Since this discussion is still listed as under the 19th c British group I feel entitled, like Pieter, to make a formal recommendation that this painting be identified as 'Reconstruction of the ancient port of Rome' ('Reconstrucción del antiguo puerto de Roma', the title in the 1892 Madrid exhibition) and is by Justo Ruiz Luna (1865-1926). Note surname is Ruiz Luna.

The painting 'The Old Harbour in Ostia' in the 1888 Munich exhibition is possibly a larger version of the same subject and disappeared in 1934. The fact it was then in the publisher Rudolf Mosse's collection (he died in 1920, see ) suggests he may have purchased it in 1888. It was not in the 1934 sale of the Mosse collection. There was a 1908 catalogue but I have not been able to find an online copy of it.