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Gallery Text

Born in the Dutch Republic but active in Rome, Vanvitelli gained fame for his vedute, or detailed views of cityscapes or vistas. These evocative views were popular purchases for eighteenth-century travelers on the Grand Tour. Here, Vanvitelli paints the ruins of the Colosseum washed in a soft afternoon “Roman” light. He carefully renders the arena, implicitly placing the viewer in the scene by lowering the viewpoint; the perspective also helps give a sense of the building’s colossal scale. Vanvitelli increases the effect by widening the panorama, which allows him to include nearby monuments like the Arch of Constantine, the top of which can be seen in the distance to the left of the Colosseum, and the Esquiline Hill on the right.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gaspar van Wittel (called Vanvitelli), Dutch (Amersfort, Netherlands 1652 - 1736 Rome, Italy)
The Colosseum Seen from the Southeast
Work Type
c. 1700
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Lazio, Rome
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
72 x 125 cm (28 3/8 x 49 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • stamp: verso: grouping of two Italian import/export stamps, one diamond-shaped [pairing found once on the stretcher and once on the verso of the canvas combined with a date stamp, faded and illegible, both with “Roma”]
  • inscription: lower left corner, white oil paint: A


Recorded Ownership History
Collection of the Ninth Duke of Medinaceli, Spain (no. 109 in the 1711 inventory). Collection of the Duchess of Almazán, Madrid, Spain. [François Heim, Paris (by 1962), sold]; to Paul E. and Gabriele B. Geier, Rome, Italy (?1962-2012), gift; to Harvard Art Museums, 2012.


For object no. 109 in the Duke of Medinaceli’s inventory see: Vicente Lleó Cañal, “The Art Collection of the Ninth Duke of Medinaceli,” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 131, no. 1031 (Feb., 1989), p. 115, under no. 184.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Paul E. and Gabriele B. Geier
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Canvas is without a frame.

Publication History

  • Giuliano Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel e l'origine della veduta settecentesca (Rome, Italy, 1966), cat. 35 p. 179
  • Mary Ann Scott, Dutch, Flemish, and German Paintings in the Cincinnati Art Museum: Fifteenth through Eighteenth Centuries, Cincinnati Art Museum (Cincinnati, OH, 1987), under cat. 55 p. 149, p. 149 (n.11)
  • Giuliano Briganti, Gaspar van Wittel, Electa (Milan, Italy, 1996), cat. 63 p. 155, under cat. 366 p. 267, repr. pp. 82 (detail), 156
  • Chiostro del Bramante and Museo Correr, Gaspare Vanvitelli e le origini del vedutismo, exh. cat., Viviani Editore (Rome, Italy, 2002), under cat. 15 p. 103

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2240 18th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 09/05/2019

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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