Part of the Forum of Nerva, Rome
(Lorenzo Bellotto)


This picture originally formed part of a series of fifteen views of Rome which was reconstructed by Kozakiewicz, who described it as ‘the fourth of Bellotto’s great series of paintings, alongside those dedicated to Dresden, Vienna and Warsaw .…’. The series was commissioned by Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, the last King of Poland, probably intended to decorate one or more of the state apartments on the upper floor of the Ujazdów Palace. Long dispersed, four of the components are now in museums in the former Soviet Union (see Fig. 1), two are in Milanese private collections, one is in a London private collection, one was until recently in a Swiss private collection, one was destroyed during the Second World War and the whereabouts of five is unknown. The subjects were divided between views of classical and of papal Rome, and the canvases were of two sizes; seven of 116 x 173cm. and seven of approximately 84 x 107cm., apart from one of much larger dimensions. One of the paintings is dated 1768, two 1770 and no less than six 1769. This was the period at which Lorenzo Bellotto was most active in his father’s studio, and, while five of the pictures are recorded as signed by Bernardo alone, at least five were signed ‘Canaletti fecerunt’ to indicate Lorenzo’s collaboration. The present painting, which was not known to Kozakiewicz even in reproduction, is the only one signed in this way and dated 1770. It may thus be the last picture on which Lorenzo worked before his premature death in October of that year. Bernardo Bellotto had not seen Rome for twenty-five years and the use of graphic sources, a practice with which he would no doubt have been familiar from his training in Canaletto’s studio in the years around 1740, was inevitable. He may in part have had recourse to drawings he executed in Rome during a visit there in 1742. However, the enthusiasm with which he adopted prints from Piranesi’s recent Vedute di Roma for many of the compositions, in at least four examples also copying Piranesi’s numbered keys, suggests (along with the subjects chosen) that he was given precise instructions by his patron. The present painting derives from Piranesi’s print which is inscribed in the cartouche ‘Parte del Foro di Nerva. Piranesi F.’ It is tempting to see the hand of Lorenzo in the central foreground group of figures as well as that on the right. The female figure in the doorway and that on the balcony are more typical of Bernardo who probably also had a hand in the execution of some detail in the upper part of the architecture above the entablature.

The Forum of Nerva was named after Marcus Cocceius Nerva AD 30-98 who was emperor for the last two years of his life. He had twice been consul and he came to power on the assassination of Domitian. In order to secure his succession he adopted Marcus Ulpius Traianus, governor of one of the German provinces. The Forum had been initiated and virtually completed under Domitian but was only inaugurated in AD 97. It was the last but one of the imperial fori to be built. It was hemmed in by the Forum Augustus and the Foro della Pace, so that it was rather long and narrow, linking the Roman Forum to the Foro della Pace. The side closest to the Roman Forum was curved, while the other was adorned with a colonnade. At one end stood the Temple of Minerva, the divinity venerated by Domitian, but only the foundations now survive. However in the seventeenth century substantial parts of this important temple still stood intact and the building with frieze and corinthian pillars may be part of this edifice since the doorway is surmounted by a well preserved marble relief of a female deity. The edifice was destroyed on the express instruction of Paul V so that marble might be recovered for the construction of the Acqua Paola fountain on the Gianicolo.

33 ½ x 42 1/8 in.85 x 107 cm.
Oil on canvas

PROVENANCE: Commissioned by Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski, last King of Poland (1732-1798), Lazienki Palace, Warsaw; Count Ludwik Tyszkiewicz, Grand Marshal of Lithuania, to whom given by the above before 1795; Anon. Sale, Hoving and Wimborg, Stockholm, 22-23 Sept. 1919, lot 23.


LITERATURE: S. Ciampi, Bibliografia critica delle antiche reciproche corrispondenze …, II, Florence 1839, p. 237, no. 42; E. Rastawiecki, Slownik malarzów polskich tudziez obcych w Polsce osiadlych lub czasowo w niej przebywajacych, I, Warsaw, 1850, p. 56, no. 43; Fournier-Sarlovèze, Les Peintres de Stanislas-Auguste II roi de Pologne, Paris, 1907, p. 147, no. 467; T. Mankowski, Galerja Stanislawa Augusta, Lwów, 1932, pp. 62 and 182, no. 467; S. Lorentz in the catalogue of the exhibition Bellotto a Varsavia, Venice, 1955, p. 34, no. 48; S. Kozakiewicz, ‘Lorenzo Bellotto, syn Bernarda i zagadnienie jego wspólpracy z ojcem’, Biuletyn Histrii Sztuki, XXII, 1960, no. 2, p. 152, no. 13 and note; S. Lorentz, catalogue of the exhibition Drezno i Warszawa w twórczosci Bernarda Bellotta Canaletta, Warsaw, 1964-5, p. 20; S. Kozakiewicz, ‘Un pittore quasi sconosciuto, Lorenzo Bellotto, figlio di Bernardo e una serie bellottiana di vedute di Roma’, in Venezia e la Polonia nei secoli dal XVII al XIX (Civiltà Veneziana, Studi, 19), Venice and Rome, 1965, pp. 93 and 103, no. 13; S. Kozakiewicz, Benardo Bellotto, London, 1972, I, p. 157; II, p. 305, no. 385 and under no. 386; E. Camesasca, L’opera completa del Bellotto, Milan, 1974, p. 112, no. 218 and under no. 213; Rizzi, La Varsavia di Bellotto, Milan, 1990, p. 22.


Matthiesen Gallery, ‘Collectanea’, 1998

Where is It?
Acquired from Matthiesen Gallery by private collector
Historical Period
Rococo - 1720-1780
Italian - Venetian
1999-Collectanea 1700-1800.
Hard back catalogue of the Exhibition held in London and New York, 220 pages fully illustrated with 46 colour plates. £30 or $40 inc. p.& p.

(Click on image above)
Price band
Sold or not available