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Jan Frans van Bloemen 1662 - 1749
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Jan Frans van Bloemen 1662 - 1749

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A wooded classical landscape with two figures on a path by a Sphinx, a river and a fortified hill town beyond


Oil painting on canvas 32 x 54 inches; 81 x 137 cm, and contained in a fine carved and gilded “Carlo Maratta” frame


Provenance: most probably acquired in Rome in 1726 by William Philips (before 1708-died 1737) who was Governor to the 3rd Duke of Beaufort (1707-1744-5) and perhaps among the pictures offered at Cock's Auction 24-25 January the nineteenth century in the collection of the Wilkins/de Winton Family of Maesllwch Castle and by descent according to the last owner, a private collector in the Midlands


A wax seal with the coat of arms and crest of Philips are attached to the stretcher. Thomas Woodcock FSA, Garter King of Arms has kindly confirmed that the seal is that of Philips.


Literature: John Ingamells A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 pp.767-768 (see below)

Jan Frans van Bloemen was born in Antwerp 12 May 1662 where he received his initial training. His artistic development, however, relied on his moving to Rome, where he was married in 1693, and where he spent the rest of his active career spanning nearly sixty years. The prime inspiration for his art is to be found in the work of Gaspar Poussin (Dughet) from whose classicising style he derived many of his notions of colour, composition and technique. He was regarded by many of his contemporaries, both amateurs of the arts and working painters, as a great and significant artist, and his work was acquired by very many visitors to Rome in the first half of the 18th century, especially the English Milordi on the Grand Tour. His style during his long maturity developed only in the increasing lightness of his palette, towards the innovations of Panini, Locatelli and Anesi. His subject matter is largely consistent, and typified by the present painting. Numerous painters worked with him and provided figures for his pictures – notably Batoni, Maratta and Placido Costanzi.

Although Van Bloemen enjoyed a high reputation amongst his contemporaries, he nevertheless seems to have had a dispute with the Accademia di San Luca and he was only finally accepted as a member on his third application at the age of 80, seven years before he died. He was a close friend of the Dutch artist Gaspar Van Wittel, who stood Godfather to his first child, and like him was paid the compliment of having his name Italianised: he was universally known as Orizzonte.

The present painting is datable to the1720's, and shows the influence of Locatelli with its lighter palette and freer brushwork. It is notably larger and finer than much of his work.

The coat of arms attached on a seal attached to the rear of the painting are those recorded in the 1569 Visitation of Worcestershire as granted in 1567 to the Philips family, and which were subsequently used by other families of that name. William Philips was a Jacobite who acted as governor to the 3rd Duke of Beaufort in Rome in 1726-7, who warmly recommended him to The Pretender, who considered that Philips's “greater experience in the world may enable him to moderate sometimes in you a zeal which cannot be too much commended, but which it may be sometimes more advisable to conceal”: he was worried about the political risk to the young Duke of his open support for the Jacobite cause. Philips almost came to blows with the Hanoverian Stosch whilst inspecting the Raphael tapestries in the Vatican, threatening to “break his head” but restrained by consideration for “the place they were in”.

Philips seems to have adopted an arrogant and haughty manner from his association with the Duke and became so “fier et imperieux et aussi gâté dans ses principes” that the Duke “ne savoit comment se debarrasser”*. Philips borrowed money from the Duke and went on a spree, buying pictures from the Roman artists of the time. It is not clear whether the Duke intended to keep all these purchases, but what is clear that Philips shipped a number of them back to London where he promptly consigned them for sale at Cock's auction rooms under the piazza at Covent Garden and where they were offered for sale on 24-25 January 1728. Philips was soon accused of selling paintings which belonged to the Duke, though Patrick Cockburn wrote to Badminton to tell him that Philips was a “gentleman of honour” and that “some of the pictures bore Philips's seal”**. (This is the seal attached to the reverse of the present painting)


* Bernege letters MSS F.477 (29 May 1727)
**Badminton MSS Fml 3/2 (Hamilton 8 Jun 1728)




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