Turpin de Crissé came from an aristocratic family, but his father, a talented amateur artist, lost his life and the family fortune in the French Revolution. During the Directory he was supported by the comte de Choiseul-Gouffier, enabling him to study landscape painting and make a trip to Switzerland in 1803. At the Salon of 1806 he exhibited a painting, René's Farewell to His Sister, based on a literary subject from Chateaubriand, the French writer and statesman. During the Empire, Turpin de Crissé attended the court of Josephine as one of her chamberlains, but returned to his artistic career after her death and the fall of Napoléon in 1814. By this time an inheritance had made him financially secure. A frequent exhibitor at the Paris Salon until 1835, he traveled to Italy in search of landscape motifs in 1818, 1824, and 1830. Trusted by the Bourbons after the restoration of the monarchy, he held a number of official posts concerned with the administration of the arts and museums, and was elected to the Legion of Honor in 1825. After the Revolution of 1830, he retired to his native town of Angers, and devoted himself to building a collection of antiquities and works of art, which he bequeathed to the local museum that still bears his name.
View of a Villa, Pizzofalcone, Naples was probably painted in 1819 (according to an inscription on a related drawing), just after Turpin de Crissé's first visit to Italy. In 1826 he published a suite of thirty-nine lithographed views in and around Naples, Souvenirs du golfe de Naples, although the subject of our painting does not appear there. View of a Villa, Pizzofalcone, Naples shows a modest neoclassical villa, perched atop an overgrown, rocky cliff and grotto, with animals and passersby heading for the ancient tunnel to the right. The same site was depicted in the 1770s by the British painter Thomas Jones (Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea); the little villa, however, was constructed later, at some point between then and 1819. Turpin de Crissé's painting contrasts the crisply whitewashed villa with the undeveloped terrain below. The site in the Pizzofalcone neighborhood of Naples is much altered today, with a garage and parking lot, but the house above, although modified, can still be identified as the Palazzo Villino Wenner. Turpin de Crissé's painting is remarkable for the artist's choice of an unusual and certainly unconventional site, in a city otherwise full of famous views and historic monuments. The finesse of his technique and the precision of his observation, combined with the surprising viewpoint, convey a vivid sense of place. Although this is a finished studio painting, it was very likely closely studied on the spot: the clear, bright light of the southern Mediterranean gives it an immediacy and a feeling of the outdoors.
(Text by Philip Conisbee, published in the National Gallery of Art exhibition catalogue, Art for the Nation, 2000)
Private collection, Berne; purchased 3 November 1997 through (Marc Blondeau, Paris) by NGA.
- Art for the Nation: Collecting for a New Century, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2000-2001, as View of a Palazzo and Quarry, Pizzofalcone, Naples, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Lancelot-Théodore Turpin de Crissé: peintre et collectionneur, Paris 1782-1859, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers; Bibliothèque Marmottan, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2006-2007, no. 17, repro. (shown only in Angers; not requested for second venue).
- Eitner, Lorenz. French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I: Before Impressionism. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2000: 348-351, color repro.