Giovanni Paolo Panini died in Rome on October 21, 1765.

By Jennifer D. Webb

Giovanni Paolo Panini died in Rome on October 21, 1765. Although best known for his painted vedute of Rome, Panini also was an architect and stage designer.

Born in Piacenza on June 17, 1691, Panini trained with two painters, Giuseppe Natali and Andrea Galluzzi, and a stage designer, Francesco Galli-Bibiena. He moved to Rome in 1711 to continue his studies and it was there that he received his first formal commissions for the decoration of Roman palaces; he worked at the Villa Patrizi between 1719 and 1725. In 1719 he painted his Alexander Visiting the Tomb of Achilles to document his entry into the Accademia di San Luca.

After 1717, Panini concentrated his efforts on vedute or “reportorial views” as defined by Peter Björn Kerber. Kerber notes that such “eyewitness views” not only record a transitory moment and include contemporary portraits but also “shape” the historical record. (1) To illustrate his final point, Kerber demonstrates how Panini adapted scenes for particular patrons, Kerber highlights formal details in the paired View of Saint Peter’s Square and Interior of Saint Peter’s commissioned by the French Ambassador, Étienne François, Comte de Choiseul-Stainville. For Choisel’s pair, Panini varied the viewpoints slightly and, in the Interior scene, the ambassador, in a group that includes a cardinal, are highlighted. In other commissions for the same patron, Panini altered the architectural details of particular buildings in order to make them look more formal and thus convey the significance of particular meetings. This is especially evident in King Charles III Visiting Pope Benedict XIV at the Coffee House of the Palazzo Quirinale (1746). Rather than record the simplicity of a meeting space that Pope Benedict XIV had commissioned to provide a more informal setting, Panini enhances the ornamentation by doubling sculptural details including the pilasters, adding a papal crest, and elongating the side wings. Kerber argues that Panini’s verdute best balance drama with verisimilitude.

During his career, Panini also painted portraits and designed the chapel of Saint Teresa in Santa Maria della Scale in Rome.

References: Anna Maria Ferrari. “Panini [Pannini], Giovanni [Gian] Paolo.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. https://doi-org.libpdb.d.umn.edu:2443/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.article.T065056; Kerber, Peter Björn. Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth-Century Europe (2017).


Louis Gabriel Blanchet, Portrait of the artist, 1736. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Views of Modern Rome, 1757, oil on canvas. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.

Interior of St. Peter’s with the Visit of the Duc de Choiseul, 1756-57, oil on canvas. Boston, Athenaeum. Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons.


Further reading: Julian Brooks. The Lure of Italy. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2017; Lucy Whitaker and Rosie Razzall, Canaletto and the Art of Venice. London: Royal Collection Trust, 2017.

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