Rome at Sunrise, from the Janiculum

about 1782-4, Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes

The Gere Collection, on long-term loan to the National Gallery, © Private collection 2000. Used by permission
This scene is painted looking eastwards from a point at the southern end of the Janiculum hill in Rome. The buildings of 18th-century Rome take up the bottom third of the painting, while the upper two-thirds are given over to a scudding dance of black, grey and white clouds at dawn. The clouds seem to be moving particularly swiftly, and it is possible that the painting was not made out of doors but was based on a rapid pencil sketch with colour annotations, of a kind that Valenciennes is known to have made and used.

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