The Porticus Octaviae, Rome, 1825
Watercolour over graphite on paper, H. 328 mm; W. 244 mm
Signed, dated and inscribed lower right: R P Bonington / 1825 Paris
Certificate of Patrick Noon, 21 November 2019.
Provenance: Private collection, France
The only son of a Nottingham drawing master and stationer, Bonington learned watercolour painting from his father and exhibited paintings at the Liverpool Academy at the age of 11. His family relocated to Calais (France) in late 1817 to start a lace making factory. There, Bonington came under the casual tutelage of Louis Francia (1772-1839). In 1818, the family moved to Paris to start a lace business, and within a year Bonington had met Eugène Delacroix, while copying Dutch landscape and genre paintings in the Louvre. Bonington enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts as well as at the atelier of baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835), the most prestigious art pedagogue in Paris at the time. But he also began landscape sketching tours in the suburbs and countryside around Paris, painting scenes of fish markets and architectural ruins, and selling the paintings to Parisian art dealers.
He exhibited two paintings for the first time at the Paris Salon of 1822. By 1823, he was working closely with Francia (then in Paris) to prepare his own lithographic series on architectural ruins, Restes et Fragments (Remnants and Fragments); but he also began painting in oils and toured northern France, with an extended stay in Dunkerque. After the famous Salon of 1824, where he received a gold medal, demand for his work increased significantly. Bonington travelled to London in 1825 and toured along the northern coast with Eugène Isabey and Delacroix before returning to Paris to take up lodgings with Delacroix.
As the inscription “Paris” shows, the present watercolour was not painted from nature; Bonington has actually never been to Rome. He could use prints from his father’s collection. One of Piranesi’s etchings Vedute di Roma (1750-1778), showing the same site on plate 34, was probably the model for this work.