The rich intensity of this evening landscape has been revealed by the recent conservation of this little-known painting. Unlike the majority of Claude's works, the picture has no other subject matter than the drama and beauty of the Campagna - the countryside around Rome.
This is Claude's last, and most accurate, topographical composition. A modern visitor to the site, which lies on the Via Quintilio Varo above the town of Tivoli, could appreciate a similar view of Rome today. However, Claude has subtly manipulated the view; for instance the familiar dome of St Peter's, the most prominent of various outcrops on the horizon, is actually located much further to the left. Similarly, the circular Temple of Sibyl, which should be included at the very left edge in this view, has been omitted. However, it is included in a painting in Grenoble which may have been intended as the pair to this work. Both pictures were commissioned by the same patron, Michel Passart. The cascades that are so prominent in Claude's composition were diverted from the site in 1826.
The landscape around Tivoli had been a popular sketching spot, particularly with Northern artists, since the end of the sixteenth century, and Claude's visits to the Roman Campagna were part of a well- established artistic pattern. The landscape was filled with medieval and ancient ruins that were particularly attractive to artists. Claude frequently included elements of these in his works, many of which were painted in Rome where he spent most of his career.
Frederick, Prince of Wales, whose collection included a number of Italianate landscape views by Claude and Gaspar Dughet, probably purchased this work. The painting hung at Buckingham House under George III, c.1774 in the King's dressing room and by 1817 in the Blue Velvet Room. By 1855 it had moved to the King's Bedroom, Windsor Castle. It is one of five paintings by Claude in the Royal Collection, which also includes a significant group of drawings.
Signed and dated lower right CLAVD / ROM 164
Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002
Painted for Michael Passart; no longer in his collection by 1684; purchased by Frederick, Prince of Wales by 1750?; George III by c.1774