Panini, Giovanni Paolo

Plaisance 1691 - Rome 1765
Biography & List of works

Bélisaire aux portes de Constantinople

Bélisaire aux portes de Constantinople


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 133 x 110 cm

Panini was the major painter of vedute and ruins, active in Rome in the first half of the 18th century, and one of the most influential artists of his type. Although still linked to the Rococo concept of ruins as primarily decorative, his more correct archaeological approach links him with the work of Piranesi, who introduced a more emotive note to his Roman views and this sets him apart from his contemporary Locatelli.

After study with the quadraturista Ferdinando Bibiena and others in Piacenza, Panini transferred to Rome around 1711. There, he rapidly began to establish himself as one of the most sought -after painters of his day, both by the Roman and French elite as well as other foreigners in the city. Equally gifted as view-painter, decorator and architect, he was soon working for the ecclesiastical intelligentsia, including Cardinals Spinola and Alberoni. It was through the latter that he met Cardinal Polignac, who commissioned two of Panini’s finest and most characteristic pictures of spectacular Roman festivals, for the birth of the Dauphin (Paris, Louvre and Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland). His decorations were many and extensive, including those in Villa Patrizi, the Seminario Romano, Palazzo Alberoni, the Quirinal Palace and Palazzo Albani, all painted between 1718-25. In 1719, he was admitted to the Virtuosi del Pantheon, followed by the Academia di San Luca, of which he was President from 1754-5. The sophistication of his decorative schemes is seen in the so-called Appartamento cinese of Palazzo Sciarra, and the grandiose religious paintings for the Spanish Royal Palace of la Granja, which combine architectural perspectives with figures in a unique way.

His contacts with the French, through the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Rome, led to a certain chic in his depiction of fashionable Roman society moving elegantly through his architectural backgrounds, always painted with an infallible sense of scale and detail. While his sources lay in the scenographic tradition (from which he was never completely free, unlike Hubert Robert), he exerted a powerful influence on Canaletto and even Piranesi. In the great Roman tradition of Bernini, Panini was closely involved with the design of architectural ephemera, but was also brilliant at recording his work in paintings like Piazza Farnese Decorated for the Marriage of the Dauphin of 1745 (New York, Chrysler Collection).