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View of the Roman Forum

Anonimo olandese

Purchased in 1911, this View seems to be the product of a Dutch painter active in Rome. Indeed beginning in the 1630s realist representations of vistas of the city were widely sought after on the art market, taking their place next to ideal and classical landscape paintings.

Executed by the mid-17th century, this canvas depicts a corner of the Roman Forum. The three columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux are visible in the central portion of the foreground, while on the left we see the colonnade of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina with the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda. The background shows the ruins of the Basilica of Maxentius and the belltower of Santa Maria Nova, illuminated by a soft light.

Object details

First half of 17th century
oil on canvas
cm 46 x 37

Frame, 49 x 58.5 x 4 cm


Purchased by Italian state, 1911 (Herrmann Fiore 2006).


The history and provenance of this painting are unknown. The first information we have about it dates to only 1911, when the work was purchased by the Italian state (Herrmann Fiore 2006) for the Borghese Museum.

For the most part, critics have ignored this canvas. Roberto Longhi (1928) deemed it a work ‘of no value’, and it even fails to appear in the two volumes published by Paola della Pergola (1955; 1959). For her part, Kristina Herrmann Fiore (2006) misidentified it as the product of an unknown 18th-century painter. Yet close observation of the canvas shows that it rather seems to be the work of an artist from the first half of the 17th century: both the shape of the miniscule figures that dot the scene and the rhythm that permeates the entire composition point to this conclusion. The work in fact is not a vista in the classical sense of the term, that is, one which objectively reproduces that which surrounds the painter. Rather, it is a landscape which still adheres to the criteria of balance and harmony, as is suggested by the vegetation represented in the guise of a scenic backdrop and by the presence of humans who give life to this happy arcadia between man and nature. This aspect distances the work from the world of 18th-century painting and moves it close to those views realised by Dutch artists in Rome during the 1620s: these painters indeed produced vistas of the city which were widely appreciated and sought after on the art market.

Antonio Iommelli

  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 225;
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, I, Roma 1955 (assente);
  • P. della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959 (assente);
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 175.