Claude-Louis Châtelet

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Claude-Louis Châtelet
View of the Island of Capri
Watercolor, over preliminary drawing in black chalk, on paper.
9 1/16 x 13 11/16 inches (231 x 347 mm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund, 1978.

The abbé de Saint-Non's four volume “Voyage pittoresque” is one of the most lavish and highly regarded travel books produced during the eighteenth century when such multi-volume visual journeys flourished. This ambitious project was in preparation for over two decades, and, by the late 1770s, the abbé had entrusted the work of obtaining more illustrations to Baron Vivant-Denon, who was attached to the French embassy in Naples at the time. It was Vivant-Denon who recruited Chatelet and Jean-Louis Desprez for the project. Around 1778 Chatelet, along with Laurent Hoüel, Desprez, and P. A. Paris, traveled to Naples, where each executed a number of views. The section devoted to the rugged island of Capri in the Bay of Naples appears in the third volume and is only illustrated by two views, both taken from the sea. Chatelet's scene depicted here was not included. Vivant-Denon and his party arrived at Capri after a boat journey from Naples prolonged to four and a half hours by ill winds and other factors. They stayed overnight in a sailor's house that afforded an excellent view of the islands of Ischia and of Naples, Vesuvius, and the coast of Sorrento, explored the entire island, and no doubt made many on-site drawings.
An inscription on the reverse of the old mount identifies this as a view of the island from the House of Tiberius and erroneously records that it was engraved in the "Voyage pittoresque". Tiberius's Villa Jovis (27AD) is in the northeast corner of the island. Chatelet's composition includes enthusiastic travelers who point excitedly at the spectacular rock formations, creating a sense of scale as well as enhancing the dramatic effect of the scene.
Even if it was not the basis of a plate in the "Voyage pittoresque", the composition was attractive enough for Chatelet to produce at least one replica, which appeared on the market in 1994 (sale, London, Sotheby's, 4 July 1994, lot 135).


Divided into quadrants in pencil on verso, which is inscribed variously, in pen and dark brown ink, "J R, no. 66; 72.23", and in a different brown ink, "no. 1 p", and at top of page, "139". Also inscribed in pencil at lower left of old mount (onto which some of the inscriptions on the verso of the drawing have offset), "Vue de l'ile de Capri prise de la maison de Tibere/Engraved in St. Non. Voyage Pictoresque [sic] des Naples et de Sicile".
Watermark: Fleur-de-lis.
Watermark: Countermark: D & C Blauw, fragment.

Possibly James Reiss (Lugt 1522); possibly sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 4 November 1970, repr.; sale, New York, Sotheby's, 12 January 1994, lot 167, repr. in color.
Associated names: 

Reiss, James, 1812-1899, former owner.


Denison, Cara D., with Stephanie Wiles and Ruth S. Kraemer. Fantasy and Reality : Drawings from the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Collection. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1995, no. 22, repr. in color.