A wild, mountainous landscape stretches out before us, with sharp snowy peaks silhouetted against the sky. In the middle distance, just beyond the rushing waterfall, a town – complete with campanile (bell towers) and classical buildings – perches on a hilltop. In the foreground, a handful of figures and two dogs rest beside the dusty path that weaves through the landscape.
Gaspard Dughet may have intended this to be a view of Tivoli, a hillside town about 20 miles north-east of Rome. It was visited by generations of artists who came to paint the town’s classical buildings, as well as the terraced gardens of the nearby Villa d’Este. Another painting by Dughet, in which some of Tivoli’s buildings appear in an imaginary landscape, is also in the National Gallery’s collection.
This painting’s dimensions are unusual, the canvas being twice as wide as it is tall. It may once have been part of a decorative scheme, probably intended to hang above a doorway.
Gaspard Dughet may have intended this to be a view of Tivoli, a hillside town about 20 miles north-east of Rome. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, both the town and the nearby Villa d’Este were seen to epitomise the classical style of architecture and landscape design, and were highly influential across Europe. Generations of artists visited to paint Tivoli’s buildings and the Villa’s terraced gardens (another painting by Dughet in the National Gallery’s collection shows some of these buildings in an imaginary landscape).
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as the gardens at the Villa became wild and overgrown, Tivoli’s natural beauty became the focus of the new generation of Romantic artists. Several oil sketches on long-term loan to the National Gallery focus on the falls at Tivoli, such as Simon Denis’s View of the Cascades at Tivoli and Jean Joseph Xavier Bidauld’s View of Tivoli Cascade.
This picture’s dimensions are unusual, the canvas being twice as wide as it is tall. It may once have been part of a decorative scheme, probably intended to hang above a doorway. A painting of virtually identical size exists at Chatsworth House, a stately home in Derbyshire, but there is no evidence to connect the two works.
Although Dughet is not well known today, his paintings were exceptionally popular in Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In 1811, this picture fetched 650 guineas at auction in London, while Rembrandt’s Bathsheba with King David’s Letter (Musée du Louvre, Paris) and Raphael’s An Allegory (‘Vision of a Knight’) went unsold, failing to reach the prices of 400 guineas and 180 guineas respectively.
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