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Giovanni Paolo Panini, Roman Ruins with Figures

Key facts
Full title Roman Ruins with Figures
Artist Giovanni Paolo Panini
Artist dates 1691 - 1765
Date made about 1730
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 49.5 × 63.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lt.-Col. J.H. Ollney, 1837
Inventory number NG138
Location Room 40
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Roman Ruins with Figures
Giovanni Paolo Panini

Panini painted a number of imaginary scenes in which a known monument is set within a fanciful arrangement of ruins. The crumbling stone pyramid here is based on the tomb of Caius Cestius in Rome, but all of the other elements are invented. Remnants of the city’s classical past fill the foreground: broken columns, a statue on a plinth, a damaged sarcophagus and, at the bottom left, a frieze decorated with a wolf, a symbol of Rome. The view is animated by figures who gather among the ruins.

This is probably one of Panini’s earlier works, painted in about 1730. He started his career as a stage designer and specialised mostly in view paintings of contemporary and ancient Rome. Although we don't know who first owned this picture, its small size and Roman subject matter might have made it desirable for British collectors on their travels around Europe.

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