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Visit of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony to the Arch of Trajan in Benevento
Joli, Antonio
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Joli, Antonio

Modena (Italy), 1700 - Naples (Italy), 1777

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Visit of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony to the Arch of Trajan in Benevento

Ca. 1759. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

This architectural landscape showing the ancient Roman city of Benevento, near Naples, was painted around 1759 by Antonio Joli of Modena. A painter of theatre sets and vedute, Joli worked for theatres in Venice, London and Madrid, and painted numerous scenes for private collectors, which show the influence of Giovanni Paolo Panini, Gaspare Vanvitelli and Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto). In 1756 he accompanied the English Lord John Brudenell on a twoyear trip through southern Italy, where he also visited and made the first oil paintings of the Greek Doric temples of Paestum, rediscovered by archaeologists in 1747. In the spring of 1759 Joli settled in Naples with the intention of gaining a position at court, but his first efforts were frustrated when King Charles III of Bourbon and Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony left for Madrid on 6 October 1759, following the death without issue of Charles’s half-brother, Ferdinand VI, earlier that year. Joli did not obtain a post at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, until 1762, when he succeeded set-painter Vincenzo Re following his death.

Ignoring the town’s true topography, Joli drew on the prints that illustrate Giovanni de Vita’s Thesaurus Antiquitatum Beneventanarum (1754) to craft a fanciful assemblage of Benevento’s most important monuments. The dominant building is Trajan’s triumphal arch, erected in 114 AD to honour that emperor for constructing the Via Traiana between Benevento and Brindisi, the Roman Empire’s gateway to Greece and the Orient. Two different views of the ruins of the Roman theatre appear on opposing sides of the arch, and a third-century sarcophagus relief now at Benevento’s Museo del Sannio appears in the foreground to the right. Its carving actually narrates the climax of the story of Achilles and Penthesilea, but in the eighteenth century this was mistaken for the myth of the Rape of the Sabine Women, which tells how the founders of Rome kidnapped the women of that tribe and took them for their wives. To the left of the sarcophagus, Joli depicts a relief from the facade of Benevento’s cathedral belltower in the same position it remains in to this day. Legend identifies the animal represented there as the Calydonian boar slain by Meleager. According to that myth, the goddess Artemis sought to punish Aeneas, King of Calydon, for forgetting to worship her. She sent a wild boar to destroy the city but the king’s son, Meleager, killed it. Diomedes, King of Argos, who had also participated in this hunt, pulled out its tusks and carried them to Benevento, one of the southern Italian cities of which, according to tradition, he was the founder. A novel touch in this type of landscape is Joli’s inclusion of an artist, who copies the reliefs under the guidance of an expert. In front of the arch a retinue of gentlemen, noble ladies and two uniformed royal guards accompany Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony and a nobleman who may be prime minister Bernardo de Tanucci, a great connoisseur of the antiquities discovered at Pompeii and Herculaneum. A guide explains the monuments but, rather than Trajan’s Arch, which is the painting’s dominant structure, he points to the remains of a colonnade from a Dorian temple. Joli undoubtedly invented these ruins as an allusion to that period’s newfound appreciation of Greek art. Contemporaneous archaeologists, including Johann Joachim Winckelmann, admired the simplicity of Greek art, considering it the origin of all architectural styles. Thus this landscape reflects the modern archaeological study of Antiquity ennobled by the presence of the Queen, who is depicted here as a protector of science (Maurer, G.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 250).

Technical data

Inventory number
Joli, Antonio
Visit of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony to the Arch of Trajan in Benevento
Ca. 1759
Height: 77.5 cm; Width: 131 cm
Private collection, Italy, until 2010; Christie's, London, 2010; Charles Beddington Ltd., London; Bequest of Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2011.

Bibliography +

Toledano, Ralph, Antonio Joli. Modena 1700-1777 Napoli, Artema, Turín, 2006, pp. 386 n.XXXV.

Old Master & 19th Century, Paintings, Drawings & Watercolours, Christie´s London, 07-07, 2010, pp. 108 y ss, nº 232.

Selected old master paintings, Charles Beddington Ltd, London, 2011, pp. 60 y ss. nº24.

Maurer, G., Visita de la reina María Amalia de Sajonia al Arco de Trajano en Benevento, Fundación Amigos del M. del Prado, 2011.

Urrea, Jesús, Antonio Joli en Madrid, 1749-1754, Fondo Cultural Villar Mir, Madrid, 2012, pp. 62.

Maurer,G, Antonio Joli, 'Visita de la Reina Maria Amalia de Sajonia al Arco de Trajano en Benevento' En: Memoria de actividades 2011, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2012, pp. 54-56.

Maurer, G, Antonio Joli 'Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony visits Trajan's Arch of Triumph in Benevento' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 252.

Maurer, G, 'Antonio Joli. Visita de la reina Maria Amalia de Sajonia al Arco de Trajano en Benevento' En:, Cuarenta años de amistad. Donaciones de la Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado., Museo Nacional del Prado. Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado., Madrid, 2021, pp. 110 nº 33.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2824.

Exhibitions +

Forty Years of Friendship. Donations from the Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado
14.09.2021 - 16.01.2022

Goya y la corte ilustrada
14.02.2018 - 28.05.2018

Goya y la corte ilustrada
27.09.2017 - 21.01.2018

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Antonio Joli, View of Queen Maria Amalia of Saxony at the Arch of Trajan in Benevento
10.11.2011 - 30.04.2012

Update date: 18-01-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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