National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Church of Santa Maria della Febbre, Rome Pieter Jansz Saenredam (artist)
Dutch, 1597 - 1665
Church of Santa Maria della Febbre, Rome, 1629
oil on panel
overall: 37.8 x 70.5 cm (14 7/8 x 27 3/4 in.) framed: 51.4 x 84.4 x 5.7 cm (20 1/4 x 33 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.34
On View
From the Tour: Dutch Landscapes and Seascapes of the 1600s
Object 7 of 8

As the foremost innovator in the accurate depiction of buildings, Saenredam has earned the title of “first portraitist of architecture.” The son of an engraver, he developed draftsmanship so precise that it is difficult to believe he never visited Italy to see the site of Saint Peter’s, the subject of this convincing view. In the 1530s, the Flemish artist Maerten van Heemskerck had worked in Rome, and, a century later, Saenredam used Heemskerck’s drawings as the basis for this painting.

The ancient, circular chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre stands beside the famous Vatican obelisk that, in 1586, was moved in front of Saint Peter’s basilica. Behind ramshackle Old Saint Peter’s rise the piers of Michelangelo’s dome for New Saint Peter’s. Saenredam portrayed the whole construction site as though it were an abandoned, overgrown ruin.

An artificial color scheme marks the earliest period of Dutch landscape painting, developed in the sixteenth century. To create a feeling of depth, Saenredam overlapped layers of contrasting tone: a dark foreground, through the buildings’ pinkish yellow, to a distant valley in bright blues and greens.

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