Figures by Michelangelo Cerquozzi (1602 – 1660)
Codazzi is first documented in Naples in 1634, probably after he had sojourned in Rome, where he formed his style and where he would have met both Agostino Tassi and Claude Lorraine. The later clearly had a fundamental impact on his style and aroused his interest in monumental ruins, depicted either from real life or as an ideal. Roberto Longhi has said of Codazzi that, together with Vanvitelli he was one of the initiators of real view painting, which began to be established in the second half of the seventeenth century. However this is less than certain, since Vanvitelli’s precursors were probably the Flemish bamboccianti painters, who visited Rome early in the century, as well as the engraver, Giovan-Battista Falda, who began to use a form of panoramic view which became a hallmark of the vedutisti painters.
While staying in Naples, Codazzi frequently worked in collaboration with Domenico Gargiullo called Micco Spadaro. However, when he returned to Rome he collaborated with Michelangelo Cerquozzi until the latter’s death in 1660, and after that with Castiglione and Filippo Lauri. In Rome he painted classical architecture and capricci of Roman ruins, and occasionally also contemporary architecture. Briganti, Trezzani and Laureati list around a hundred works in their important study on the artist, whilst the catalogue raisonné includes nearly two hundred works.
The acute intuition of Luigi Lanzi in 1789 that considers Codazzi as “nearly the Vetruvius of this class of painting”, allows us to understand perfectly the ‘classical ideal’ in the literary rather than the strictly archaeological sense that Codazzi renders as an artistic genre for the first time. This should never be interpreted as a true autonomous veduta even though the painter often takes from reality or combines it with elements of the imagination. Codazzi, along with Poelenburg, Breenburg or the other seventeenth century artists (except for the Van Welt of the Campo Viccino in Cambridge) lack a sense of the panoramic vision, which will become particular to Vanvitelli and the Venetian painters and engravers, as well as the sense of atmosphere that Emilio Lavagnino passionately pointed out in his 1959 catalogue (Il Settecento a Roma, exhibition catalogue, 1959, p. 170). In Codazzi the attention is directed mainly on the relationship between the monumental dimension of classical Rome, by now irredeemably and mythically lost, and the different conditions of the contemporary times. The significance of vanitas here is that the Roman ruin is therefore seen in “a moral sense”, that is to say as a testimony to the material life.
The present painting was historically paired with a View of a Circular Temple with a Statue of Hercules in an Idealized Setting, Oil on canvas, 52 x 67 1/4 in; 132,2 x 172 cm, now in a private collection. It is comparable in quality, style and scale to Codazzi’s widely accepted autograph works. Of particular relevance here are the following pictures, Sacrifice in the Ruins of a Round Temple, (Marshall, ref. VC131), with figures also probably by Cerquozzi. It depicts a round temple of the same type as the pair to the present picture, taken from the so-called Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli. Round Temple with Offerings to a Goddess (Marshall, ref. VC33) is also compositionally close.
The present picture represents a classical temple with pediments supported by a row of eight Corinthian columns, which exhibits to the highest level Codazzi’s technical brilliance and keen interest in elaborate and precise architectural structures. In quality it supersedes even the best examples of Codazzi’s oeuvre.