A set of five large magnificent late-18th-century views of Naples, Italy and vicinity. These hand-colored engravings, engraved and published by Georg Abraham Hackert, are based on the original paintings by his brother Jacob Philipp Hackert, then serving as court painter to Ferdinand IV, king of both Naples and Sicily (also referred to as "The Two Sicilies).” The engravings, consecutively numbered one through five, show the Bay of Naples (in two different views), the shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, Mola di Gaeta, and the port and abbey of Gaeta. The images document the landscapes and seascapes with Hackert's renowned precision and are brought to life with portrayals of citizens and workers engaged in their daily activities. Apparently the engravings in a consecutive set of five are rare -- we have been unable to locate any other such sets in collections or otherwise.
The subtitles of the engravings state that they are based on paintings from the “Collection of the Ports of the Two Sicilies” painted by Jacob Hackert for King Ferdinand IV. It is not known exactly how many paintings by Hackert were part of this so called “collection,” but one scholar, Sergio Attanasio, has summarized recent research on the subject. Included in Attanasio’s work is an identification of the five original paintings that were the sources for the five engravings.
According to Attanasio, in 1799, members of the French army entered the studio of the engraver Georg Hackert at Palazzo Cellamare taking possession of the 17 views of the kingdom that his brother, Jacob Hackert, had painted between approximately1788 and 1794. Prior to that, King Ferdinand IV had displayed the paintings at what is known as Villa Favorita in Herculaneum. It is posited that at the time of the seizure they were at Georg Hackert’s studio to be engraved for prints, or for safekeeping. About three years later, the paintings were recovered and by 1804 all 17 were back with the king at Villa Favorita. Among these 17 paintings was the View of Mola di Gaeta (with the city of Gaeta in the distance), most likely the source of engraving No. 5 of the offered set. That painting, along with 15 others of the original 17 from Villa Favorita, are currently at the Royal Palace of Caserta in Italy.
Attanasio also has identified other paintings by Hackert that were considered to be part of the king's collection of Neapolitan port city views, in addition to the 17 from Villa Favorita. These paintings, of various sizes, were executed between approximately 1785 and 1789. They include what are likely to be the original paintings for the other four engravings of the offered set.
The offered set with five engravings is presumed complete, as issued, since the engravings are consecutively numbered and we have not located any other engravings of the same publication date, approximate platemark size, or similar format with respect to imagery, or the style and content of the titles and credits printed in the lower margins. Examples of four of the five offered prints are now in the collection of the Palazzo Mirto in Palermo, where they are on display in the “Hackert Library” (see References below). Palazzo Mirto also has other engravings made for King Ferdinand IV of port cities in his kingdom by Jacob Hackert and engraved by his brother Georg, including Palermo and Taranto. However, they presumably are of a different date, size and/or format than the five offered engravings. For example, the Taranto view at Palazzo Mirto might be the one engraved in 1790 by Giovanni de Grado, under the direction of Georg Hackert and based on the painting by Jacob Phillip Hackert -- in that case the participation of de Grado alone suggests that the issuance was different.
Below are the full titles of the prints in the lower margin of each, together with an English translation and a brief description of each image:
Il Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia nel momento che si varava il Vascello detto la Partenope, a di 16 Agosto 1786. No. 1
[The Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia at the moment when the vessel called Partenope was launched, on August 16, 1786]
Probably painted in 1787, this view shows the launching of the Partenope, the second ship produced there. The shipyard at Castellammare di Stabia was established under the realm of Ferdinand IV in the 1780s and soon became the largest shipbuilding facility in Italy, with 1,800 workers.
La Rada di Napoli presa da Sta. Lucia, colla Squadra di S. M. tornata da Algieri, ed ancorata quivi nel di primo Settembre 1784. No. 2
[The Fleet of Naples taken from Santa Lucia, the return of His Majesty's Squadron from Algiers, and anchored there on September 1, 1784]
Probably painted in 1787, this view shows clipper ships from the king's navy returning to the Bay of Naples from the vantage point of the small harbor of Santa Lucia, which today is just southwest of Naples' commercial port. Townspeople watch from the shore and from rowboats. In the distance, a thin plume of smoke rises from the volcano Mt. Vesuvius.
Porto, e Badia di Gaeta. No. 3
[Port and the Abbey of Gaeta]
Probably painted in 1789, the daily life of the port at Gaeta is shown where all strata of society from barefoot peasant women and male watermen to upper class women in powdered wigs and a man in a frock coat converse in the shadow of a massive stone wall.
Veduta di Napoli. Presa dai Magazzini del ponte della Maddalena, col ritorno della Squadra da Livorno che portò le loro Maestà ai 7, Settembre 1785. No. 4
[View of Naples. Taken from the Warehouses of the Maddalena Bridge, with the return of the Squadron from Livorno on 7 September 1785]
Probably painted in 1785, this view of the Bay of Naples shows the king's fleet as it enters the port. In the foreground, a gold-trimmed rowboat with an elegant canopy waits while two men hoist a dignitary (perhaps the king) into the vessel.
Veduta di Mola di Gaeta, e in distanza della Città di Gaeta colla sua Fortezza e Rada. No. 5
[View of Mola di Gaeta, and in the distance the city of Gaeta with its fortress and fleet]
Probably painted in 1790, this view of the town of Mola di Gaeta is dominated by the stone tower of the medieval fortress on the left. Workers stack wood by the shore and people and dogs pass along the road. The original painting for this print apparently was one of the 17 of uniform large size originally in the Villa Favorita.
Jacob Philipp Hackert (referred to herein as “Jacob,” “Jacob Hackert,” or simply “Hackert”) and Georg Abraham Hackert (referred to herein as “Georg” or “Georg Hackert”) were brothers belonging to a German family of artists that also included their father Philipp Hackert, who gave Jacob his initial training. Hackert then studied with Blaise Nicolas Le Sueur at the Berlin Academy. Between 1762 and 1765, he traveled and studied in Germany and Sweden. He spent the following three years in Paris, where he met and was strongly influenced by the French landscape and marine artist Claude-Joseph Vernet. Hackert left for Italy in 1768, eventually settling in Rome, amid a vibrant community of French, German and English artists and scholars. During the 1770s, he became closely associated with the prominent British antiquarians Sir William Hamilton and Richard Payne Knight in Naples, producing illustrations of volcanoes for Hamilton's texts and accompanying Knight on a sketching trip through Sicily. The evolution of his style toward greater clarity and naturalism during this period has caused some scholars to consider Hackert to be the first major exponent of the neoclassical landscape. Indeed, Hackert was a major figure in the fine arts in Italy during the height of the so called Grand Tour.
In 1782, Hackert became court painter to King Ferdinand IV (1751-1825), ruler of Sicily and most of Italy south of the Papal States. (The third son of King Charles III of Spain and a member of the Bourbon dynasty, King Ferdinand IV of The Two Sicilies was also known as Ferdinand I.) While in service to the king, Hackert produced an important series of paintings of southern Italian ports, influenced by Vernet's series on French ports, sometimes referred to as the “Collection of the Ports of the Two Sicilies.” He also established a school in Naples and taught landscape painting to engravers, including his younger brother Georg. Georg also worked in the studio of Berger in Berlin. In 1786, he established himself in Naples as an engraver and printseller, working under royal patronage. When French Revolutionary forces occupied Naples in 1799, the Hackert brothers fled, eventually settling near Florence. Today, Jacob Hackert's paintings and Georg Hackert's engravings are in the collections of the world's major museums, including the Hermitage, the Louvre and the British Museum.
Inscriptions lower margin, all prints: Preso dal Quadro originale che sa parte della Collezione dei Porti delle due Sicilie ordinata da S.M. il Re. dipinto da Filippo Hackert, e inciso da Giorgio Hackert. Si vende a Napoli presso l'Autore. [Taken from the original panel known as the Collection of the Ports of the Two Sicilies ordered by His Majesty the King. Painted by Philipp Hackert, and engraved by Georg Hackert. It is sold in Naples by the author.]
Condition: Printed on 18th-century laid rag paper. Each generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Very large margins. A few prints with light marginal dampstains, currently easily matted out. Now in gilt wood frames with French mats. These prints are from the estate of a prominent New Yorker recently active in the Central Park Conservancy; full information available to purchaser.
Attanasio, Sergio. 2007. Palazzo di Cittá -- Villa di Campagna: La committenza nobiliare nel Settecento a Napoli e nel Vesuviano. pp. 11-15. http://www.exallievi-villafavorita.net/villa/rep/estratto.pdf (4 January 2013).
Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 4, pp. 541-542.
Bolton, Roy (ed.). The Collectors: Old Master Paintings. London: Sphinx Books, 2009. p. 35. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=uipMh9XRnHIC&pg=PA35 (4 January 2013).
Frecentese, Roberto. "I borghi: territorio ed insediamenti produtivi." Formia nel Medioevo. http://www.medioevoformia.it/iborghi.html (4 January 2013).
Grasso, Alfonso. Il cantiere navale di Castellammare di Stabia. 2004 December. Brigantino - il Portale del Sud. December 2004. http://www.ilportaledelsud.org/castellammare.htm (4 January 2013).
"Plan of the Second Floor of the Museo Regionale di Palazzo Mirto." Galleria Interdisciplinare Regionale della Sicilia di Palazzo Abatellis. http://www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/palazzomirto/secondopiano.html
(4 January 2013).
"Sale 5628. Lot 71. Lot Notes." Christie's. 5 July 1996. http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/jakob-philipp-hackert-a-view-of-the-1030530-details.aspx?intObjectID=1030530 (4 January 2013).