By Costanza Beltrami

Bartolomeo Pinelli died in Rome on 1 April 1835. His friend Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli, author of satirical sonnets in the Romanesque dialect, commemorated the artist’s death with a poemwhere remembered him as penniless and carefree, cheerfully drinking with friends at an Osteria in Trastevere, then a poor neighborhood on the west bank of the Tiber. 

In fact, Pinelli spent almost the whole of his life in this quarter, where he was born on 20 November 1781. Despite his humble origins, the artist soon became a popular engraver, and 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 published engravings had been 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.

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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