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Caspar van Wittel in The Netherlands in winter 1685

New insights into the life of a Dutch master who made Italy his home

The latest issue of the scholarly journal Oud Holland includes a revealing article about the 17th-century Dutch artist Caspar van Wittel (c. 1653-1736). Van Wittel, known in Italy as Gaspare Vanvitelli, was a successful painter of Italian cityscapes. An exhibition of his work runs at Kunsthal Kade until 5 May.

 
Family ties

In her article Caspar van Wittel's family ties Rozemarijn Landsman shows, on the basis of previously unknown archival documents, that Van Wittel in all probability made a return visit to Holland in the winter of 1684-1685. A reference to Van Wittel in a baptismal register in Utrecht, together with other records, throws new light on the artist's family ties. Thus, it emerges that his father came from Breukelen and was a wainwright by trade. The article paints the picture of a humble family, with a son who was able to establish himself as a renowned painter in Italy.


Sketches

Landsman also provides a new context for Van Wittel's drawn townscapes of Amersfoort and Hoorn. Previously, it was thought that Van Wittel had taken his sketches with him when he moved to Italy around 1674, or that he had drawn them in Rome from memory. It should be noted that his interest in townscapes developed once he arrived in Italy. Landsman offers a third, more plausible possibility, namely that the artist made the sketches during his return visit to Holland in the winter of 1685.


Oud Holland

Oud Holland – Journal for Art of the Low Countries is the oldest art-historical periodical in the world. It publishes new scholarly research relating to Belgian and Dutch art from c. 1400 to 1920. Oud Holland is produced and published under the auspices of the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History.

Left: Luigi Vanvitelli, Portrait of Caspar van Wittel, 1750-1800, Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, inv. 0455.
Right: Caspar van Wittel, View of Amersfoort, 1685 (?), Museo Nazionale di San Martino, inv. 20894.