Antonio Senape
died 1842
View of the Gulf of Spezia, near Genoa

CATEGORY: Italian Schools
MEDIUM: Pencil, pen and blue and black ink, pen and brown ink framing lines.
SIZE: 228 x 342 mm. (9 x 13 1/2 in.)
SIGNED: Inscribed with the title Golfo di Spezia in pen and black, lower right

Inscribed with the title Golfo di Spezia in pen and black, lower right

Pencil, pen and blue and black ink, pen and brown ink framing lines.

The condition of the drawing is: very good, the paper and ink are fresh and in excellent conserved condition. The drawing is not laid down, with the upper margins of the drawing hinged with conservation tape to a bespoke hand coloured blue wash conservation mount. Drawing is framed in an antique style, with single gold moulding.

228 x 342 mm. (9 x 13 1/2 in.)

The Port of La Spezia lies at the head of the Gulf of La Spezia on Italy’s northwestern Ligurian coast about 78 kilometers southeast of the Port of Genoa and about 40 miles northwest of the Port of Livorno.

Many remains of the Roman Empire have been found in the nearby cities.The Port of La Spezia was part of the Republic of Genoa until it fell. After the Genoese Republic failed, the Port of La Spezia grew into a commercial and political center. The Ligurian style is still visible in the Port of La Spezia’s layout and architecture.

During the 16th and 17th Centuries, the urban area of Sarzana was the center of power for the Gulf of La Spezia region. Urban development created a near-continuous city that remained relatively unchanged until the beginning of the industrial era.

In the late 18th Century, Napoleon’s armies invaded northern Italy, bringing an end to the Republic of Genoa and making the Port of La Spezia part of its Liguria Republic. The Port of La Spezia was annexed into the French Empire in 1805, and it was declared a military port in 1808. By the time the Kingdom of Sardinia drove the French out of the area in 1815, the Port of La Spezia continued to be an important strategic military port.

During the 19th Century, when our drawing was executed, the Port of La Spezia began to attract more tourists and increased maritime trade. By 1823, the Port of La Spezia was an important commercial center and new public works were undertaken.

Antonio Senape is one of the most prolific Italian vedutisti from the first half of the 1800s. While there is a great quantity of his drawings there is very little known about his life: his art is not mentioned in biographies and has been studied very little even in monographs on nineteenth century landscape painting. His year of birth, 1788, is from a document from 1815 that was found recently where Senape himself declares to be 27 years old and a resident of Rome. That he lived to the 1850s is certain from the many pictures he did of buildings constructed at that time. In one of his pictures of the Gulf of Naples you can see the Napoli-Portici railway line that was inaugurated in 1839. One of the first in depth studies on Antonio Senape was written in 1988, in the occasion of a show of his work held in Rome. Together with another show in Naples at the end of 2006 dedicated to the Campi Flegrei, there have been other updates on this interesting yet mysterious artist who was a protagonist on the nineteenth century landscape painting scene. Help in reconstructing some moments of the artists life comes from the numerous inscriptions that he wrote on his drawings, that indicate the place, his name, the address where he was living at the time and sometimes even the date in which he did the drawing. This was a habit amongst contemporary gouache artists and it seems that it was in some way useful in the selling of the works. Senape himself informs us of his work as a restorer and as of a teacher of disegno con la penna, pen and ink drawing, as we can read from an inscription inside one of his albums. Probably his pupils were tourists who liked the landscapes he had done. Probably teaching was a sideline as he was already quite busy doing vedute on commission. While he was born in Rome, Senape felt closer to Naples, even though he lived and painted all over Italy and all the way to Switzerland. A precious witness to his travels is an album of over 100 original drawings, the most important collection of his work found to date and almost certainly the product of a long Grand Tour done as part of the entourage of a particularly fastidious client. This collection of landscapes, that was in a collection in California until 2001, is extremely interesting: in 1930 in was shown at the Huntington Institution in San Marino, California attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner, an improbable ascription but one, as we will see, that is not without some interesting comparisons.