By Costanza Beltrami

Bartolomeo Pinelli was born in Rome, on 20 November 1781. Although he briefly studied in Bologna, his life and artistic career were mostly played out in Rome, and in particular in Trastevere, then a poor neighborhood on the west bank of the Tiber.

Pinelli’s humble origins did not prevent him from becoming a popular engraver, who illustrated works by famous poets such as Virgil, Dante, Torquato Tasso, Pietro Aretino and Miguel de Cervantes. These works were appreciated by English tourists on the Grand Tour, who often bought the plates from which his engravings were printed.

Pinelli realized albums with scenes of everyday Roman life for the same audience. Examples are A Collection of Traditional Costumes (Raccolta di costumi pittoreschi), Customs and Habits of Rome and Naples, both published in 1809, and Picturesque Views of Tivoli (Vedute pittoresche di Tivoli). These works demonstrate Pinelli’s ability to understand his audience’s interests. He was not an extremely skillful artist, but his lively and genuine subjects won him many artistic admirers, including the French Romantic genius Eugène Delacroix.

Rather than a virtuoso artist, Pinelli was was a party-goer. During a short trip to Paris, his Roman beauty conquered many hearts. In Rome, he was a close friend of Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, a poet who wrote satirical sonnets in the Romanesque dialect. Belli mourned Pinelli’s death on 1 April 1835 with a poemwhere remembered him as penniless and carefree, cheerfully drinking with friends at one of Trastevere’s Osterie. 

Reference: “PINELLI, Bartolomeo.” Benezit Dictionary of Artists. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.

Pinelli etching Virgil and Dante, the plate being examined by monsters who are watched on the right by Virgil and Dante, etching, 1825. Wellcome Library, London

Girls dancing the Saltarello, engraving.

Costumes of the Roman Carnival, engraving, 1812, from: Aubin-Louis Millin, Lettre de M. Millin,… à M. Langlès, Sur Le Carnaval de Rome (Paris, 1812). Image source: Gallica.

An Itinerant Salesman, engraving, 1812. Wellcome Library, London

A Roman Family, watercolor, 1825.

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