Corot, Jean-Baptiste-Camille

Paris 1796 - Paris 1875
Biography & List of works

View Of The Basilica Of S. Maria Nova And The Colosseum From The Parco Del Celio, Rome

View Of The Basilica Of S. Maria Nova And The Colosseum From The Parco Del Celio, Rome


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 36 x 53 cm

Signed: lower left: COROT


Mr Erwin Davis, New York; Frank O. Anderson, New York; Private Collection, Florida.

Corot left for Italy in 1825 arriving in Rome in late September or early October. He remained there until May of the following year, returning for brief periods during the summer months from the countryside north of the city. The winter of 1826-27 found Corot back in Rome but he traveled again throughout the spring and summer with only one possible trip back to Rome in June. Little is known of his itinerary in 1828, although the lack of any record from his fellow artists living there would suggest he had traveled beyond Rome.

“”The warmth of the (Roman) climate (…. which) endows all the vegetation with a character of vigor that one does not find in Northern countries; the earth has a warmer color, the rocks stand out forcefully, the greens there are darker and more varied, the skies bluer and the clouds more colorful”” as Valenciennes wrote[1] immediately appealed to the young Corot. Indeed, these qualities found an immediate echo in the views and studies he produced during his Italian sojourn. Two études terminées painted in March of 1826, one small View of the Farnese Gardens (Washington, DC, Phillips Collection) and a more fully resolved view of the Colosseum from the Farnese Gardens (Paris, Louvre) suggest our picture was also painted in this month. We know that Corot spent almost every day in March on the Palatine, following the sun and sometimes producing as many as three studies in one day. In this same month Corot wrote home of being awoken every morning “”by a blaze of sunlight that strikes the wall of my room. In short the weather is always beautiful. On the other hand, I find this brilliant sunlight dispiriting. I feel the complete impotence of my palette””.[2]

In our “”finished study””, as such works were then known, Corot has managed to overcome this inhibition and successfully capture the Roman light. Although it might seem at first that the composition is purely arbitrary, he has carefully cropped the painting on the left so as not to crowd the middle ground, masterfully leading the eye across the red tiled roofs and immediately identifying the setting with a glimpse of the Colosseum in the very center of the painting. While the Colosseum is tightly framed by the freely painted foliage of the trees, the spire of the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova thrusts skyward without hindrance. We may recognize here the most visible symbols of Christian and ancient Rome, the Church spire reaching upwards free from the constraining trees surrounding the pagan memorial of the Colosseum. Painted from the gardens of the Passionist Fathers in the Parco del Celio on the east side of the Palatine Hill, the artist has reduced the scale of the Colosseum and enlarged that of the Church. Hence he has been able to give equal prominence to both buildings. In the distance on the left may be seen the roofs of the Quirinale Palace. An unsigned and sketchier variant of the same composition, painted in oil on paper, is probably the painting included as no 54 in Robaut.

[1] Valenciennes in Galassi, Op. cit., p.90.

[2] Letter dated March 1826 in Moreau-Nélaton, Corot raconté par lui même, Galassi, Op. cit., p. 134.