The Palazzo Rospigliosi is on the site of the Baths of Constantine, the foundations of which had incorporated an earlier Roman house that contained these paintings. According to Helen Whitehouse, retired Curator of Ancient Egypt and Sudan in the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, “Francesco Bartoli, son of Pietro Santi, made coloured copies of the paintings, including a whole reconstruction of the ‘Apollo wall,’ but didn’t publish them. […] In the 18th century they were still being attributed to the Baths, however, and illustrated in various publications with engravings by different artists, more or less related to Francesco Bartoli’s copies.” These two plates apparently come from one of those publications.
The pose and portrayal of Apollo as a handsome athletic youth has extensive precedent in ancient, Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical art, including the works of such artists as Raphael Sanzio d’Urbino (1483-1520) and Pietro Sante Bartoli (1615-1700). Although the prints do not bear the name of an artist or engraver, and the source of the images in the prints is also unknown, though they bear a striking resemblance to the groundbreaking neoclassical art of Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1799). Mengs was strongly influenced by the works of Raphael, but his artwork — at the forefront of the development of the neoclassical style — was also influenced by the recently discovered ancient Roman frescoes of Herculaneum and Pompeii. In particular, the image of Apollo in Meng’s famous neoclassical fresco Parnassus, executed in 1761 and still present on the ceiling of the Villa Albani in Rome, relates to the offered print, Plate XLV. In both this print and Meng’s painting, Apollo is the central figure posed nude with drapery, his right arm upraised and left arm cradling a lyre, and the works are executed in beautiful pastel colors.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear.
“Parnassus.” An Introduction to Nineteenth Century Art, Routledge. http://www.19thcenturyart-facos.com/artwork/Parnassus (6 April 2016).
“Parnassus.” The Hermitage. http://www.arthermitage.org/Anton-Raphael-Mengs/Parnassus.html (18 March 2016).
Whitehouse, Helen. Email to Helen Glazer. (12 April 2016).