This work on copper, part of a series of four paintings, was commissioned by Prince Giovan Battista Borghese. In 1678, he bought the entire series from the Bolognese artist Gian Francesco Grimaldi. In the four works, the real protagonist is the landscape, a genre in which the well-known landscape painter was highly successful, appreciated for his skill by demanding and cultivated collectors.
On the right in this work is a makeshift tent under which a meal is taking place, as indicated by the plates and glasses, visible on the ground and in the hands of the carefree guests. The classical composition, the small cascade of the waterfall and the roots at the water's edge confirm that the painting was made in 1678, in line with Grimaldi's last works in which there are romantic elements.
19th century frame decorated with palmettes, 67 x 89 x 10 cm
Rome, Giovan Battista Borghese Collection, 1678 (Della Pergola, 1955, p. 49); Inventario Fidecommissario, 1833, pp. 17 (27, 28), 23 (7, 13); purchased by the Italian State, 1902.
In 1678, Prince Giovan Battista Borghese made a payment in favour of the Bolognese painter Gian Francesco Grimaldi “for several paintings registered in bill n. 718 and listed in the General Ledger for scudi 926” (Della Pergola, 1955, p. 49). According to Paola della Pergola, the first to track down this billing note in the Borghese fund of the Vatican Apostolic Archive, this sum covered other, more important works, but included this copper painting and three other landscapes (inv. n. 47, 296, 299), reported not long after at the Casino near Porta Pinciana by Domenico Montelatici (1700, p. 302): “the four correlates, painted on copper and depicting landscapes with tiny figures, were produced by Gio. Francesco Bolognese.” In fact, the artist must have produced the four paintings, most likely commissioned to be hung in the ground-floor apartments, while working at Palazzo Borghese in Via Ripetta (1672-78).
According to Batorska (2012, p. 203, n. 146), the subject of this painting, unusual for the Bolognese painter, was chosen by his patron, who wasn’t particularly concerned with the iconographic coherence of the series. For this reason, the scene depicted – a bacchanal of sorts – finds no correspondence in the other three copper tables.