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Daniël Dupre
(Amsterdam 1751-1817)

The Milvian bridge (Ponte Mollo), Rome

inscribed ‘Ponte Molle.’ (verso) and with inscription ‘ra, a/ 30’ (verso)
graphite, pen and grey ink, brown wash, fragmentary watermark Strasburg lily in a crowned crest, pen and black ink framing lines
22.8 x 29.5 cm
Anonymous sale; Van Huffel, Utrecht, 5-12 December 1960, part of lot 2505. Private collection, The Netherlands.

Rome and its countless ancient monuments proved an infinite source of inspiration for Dupré and his contemporaries. In this sheet, Dupré has depicted the famous Roman Milvian bridge, also known as the Ponte Molle, in a serene setting; a shepherd keeps an eye on his herd, while a handful of passersby cross the bridge with a calmly flowing river Tiber beneath. The picturesque bridge and its surroundings, and indeed its historical significance, have proved to be an important source of inspiration for a host of artists before Dupré; Giulio Romano (circa 1499-1546) depicted the bridge in his celebrated fresco The Battle of the Milvian Bridge, of 1520-1524 in the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican; in Jan Both’s etching from the mid-17th century the bridge is shown crumbling in a peaceful landscape setting [1] while later, in 1762, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) shows the bridge from below, greatly exaggerating its size, like a gigantic structure. [2] In Dupré’s drawing, in contrast, the bridge appears much smaller (and indeed smaller than in real life) and the focus is all the more on the picturesque quality of the bridge. The surrounding countryside seems to echo the arcadian landscapes seen in so many of the prints, drawings and paintings by the Dutch Italianates of the 17th century. Dupré executed highly finished drawings, such as the present one, on the basis of earlier, quickly executed sketches on the spot. These finished drawings were made directly for the art market and could be sold to collectors. Many of these sheets were already sent back to The Netherlands during the artist’s is Italian sojourn. [3]

[1] see for an impression; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; inv. RP-P-H-H-1294.
[2] see for an impression; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; inv. RP-P-1941-605
[3] C. Dumas and R.-J. te Rijdt, 'Kleur en Raffinement. Tekeningen uit de Unicorno collective', exhib. cat., Amsterdam, Rembrandthuis and elsewhere, 1994-1995, p. 61.

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