Description & Technical information

One of the first trips that Muirhead Bone made outside Britain was a long stay of two years - from October 1910 to October 1912 – in central and northern Italy, accompanied by his wife Gertrude and their children. After spending several weeks in Florence, the Bone family settled in Rome in the early months of 1911, and from October 1911 lived in a flat overlooking the Piazza del Popolo. During his time in Italy Bone produced thirty-two copper plates and numerous fine drawings, several of which were sent from Italy to London and Glasgow to be sold by his dealers. A number of Bone’s drawings of Italy were exhibited at the Colnaghi and Obach gallery in London in 1914, to very positive reviews.

The present sheet depicts part of the outer façade of the city gate known as the Porta del Popolo, a section part of the Aurelian Walls encircling the city of Rome. The gate was the main entrance to Rome from the Via Flaminia and the north, and was used by most travellers arriving into the city for the first time. Built by Pope Sixtus IV for the Jubilee year of 1475, the Porta del Popolo was remodelled in the 16th century under Pope Pius IV. The Pope had asked Michelangelo to design the new outer façade of the Porta, but the elderly artist passed the commission on to the architect Nanni di Baccio Bigio, who completed the work between 1562 and 1565. Bone here depicts just the extreme right-hand side of the Porta del Popolo, viewed from the Piazzale Flaminio just outside the gate, and showing further buildings to the right.

Bone drew another view of the other side of the Porta del Popolo, together with the Piazza del Popolo and the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, seen from a terrace on the Pincian Hill, in a pencil drawing now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Writing after the artist’s death in 1953, Sir Kenneth Clark recalled Muirhead Bone’s ‘almost miraculous skill. Like all other artists drawing in public places he was bothered by the crowds of curious onlookers who pressed around him while he worked. He therefore adopted the device of covering his sheet with pieces of paper so that he drew only along a narrow horizontal strip. The strip moved as the drawing proceeded. Considering the quantity of detail which most of his drawings contain, it is almost incredible that he was able to maintain the general construction and unity of tone by this method. British artists, whatever their merits, are not usually remarkable for technical skill and Bone must be the only one who can be compared with the great Italians, Piranesi or Bibiena.’

Medium: Pen and brown ink on buff paper.
Signature: Signed Muirhead Bone at the lower right.

Dimensions: 22.2 x 17 cm (8³/₄ x 6³/₄ inches)
Provenance: An unidentified triangular collector’s mark with the initials RSM (not in Lugt) stamped on the verso.

Exhibitions: Possibly Berlin, Austellunghaus am Kurfürstendamm, Fünfundzwanigste Ausstellung der Berliner Secession: Zeichnende Künste, November-December 1912, no.78 (‘Porta del Popolo, Rom’).

Categories: Paintings, Drawings & Prints