Visit of the Duc de Choiseul to St. Peter's
By Giovanni Paolo Panini
Painted 1756 to 1757. Oil on canvas, 64 5/8 x 92 3/4 in.
This massive work was commissioned in 1756 by Étienne François de Choiseul-Stainville (created the Duc de Choiseul in 1758), a prominent French statesman and diplomat under Louis XV, who was then in Rome as the French ambassador to the Vatican.
Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765) was one of the most successful vedutisti ("view painters") in the 1700s. Gigantic, highly detailed cityscapes, interiors, and landscapes were highly prized at the time, especially by the wealthy who had taken the Grand Tour of Europe and enjoyed revisiting their memories by gazing at view paintings.
Panini accurately and objectively depicted actual buildings and monuments, although later in life he tended to assemble them in imaginary compositions known as capricci, vedute ideate, or veduta di fantasi.
Today, Panini's kind of art tends to pale against the more classical and evocative work of painters who focused on the mundane, the personal, the religious. But in his day, Panini did much to reinforce the nostalgic perception of Italy as the land of monumental grandeur and beauty.