Oswald Achenbach - The Fontana di Trevi by Night
The Fontana di Trevi by Night
Oil on canvas. 122.5 x 151.5 cm.
Signed and dated lower right: Osw. Achenbach 1884.
The Trevi Fountain, which Oswald Achenbach places at the centre of this grand veduta, is one of the Eternal City's most charming and famous monuments. The fountain is the largest in Rome and uses water from the Sabine Hills, brought to the city via an ancient aqueduct. Works began on the fountain to form the terminal of this aqueduct in 1732, but they could first be completed in 1762. The chosen design was that of the then little known Nicola Salvi (1697-1751), winner of a competition opened by Pope Clemens XII. The fountain is built against the southern façade of the Palazzo Poli and is dominated by a massive triumphal arch surmounted by the papal arms. The sea god Oceanus stands in the central niche, from whence the water in channelled into a large, shallow pool decorated with naturalistic rocky outcrops and numerous marine inspired figures.
Oswald Achenbach travelled to Italy no less than seven times throughout his life. This view of Trevi Fountain is dated 1884 and thus painted after his fifth journey in 1882 and prior to his sixth in 1885. Achenbach was already a celebrated artist at this time, and his works graced the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Leipzig Museum, and the collection of the Belgian King Leopold III. Alongside the prominent motif, this large-scale work derives much of its atmospheric effect from the evening mood of the scene. The fountain is depicted beneath a deep blue sky, illuminated only by the flickering light of several torches. Among the figures that populate the scene, many of which are already enveloped by the gloom, our eye is particularly drawn to a group of men in white hoods, presumably a religious procession.