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The Procession of Pope Pius IX to the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Etching. 55.5 x 94 cm. 1846. Andresen 2.
This vast panoramic veduta shows the solemn procession of Pope Pius IX to the Lateran Basilica. With historical accuracy and attention to detail Wittmer has depicted an event that took place in November 1846, a few months after Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti was elected pope. The picturesque procession with the entire Vatican household surrounded by countless figures moves solemnly past the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum. From his carriage the pontifex maximus blesses the people of Rome, who have turned out in large numbers. In the foreground men, women, children and monks kneel reverently or show their enthusiasm with jubilant gestures. A cheering throng has gathered in the arcades of the Colosseum to watch the event from a distance. Above the terrestrial bustle dark layers of autumnal cloud have appeared, which are pierced by a huge rainbow to great dramatic effect.
Wittmer has presented the animated and colourful scene in a richly varied, never fussy etching technique, which is amazing when one considers that the artist was trained as a painter and had only limited experience with the medium of printmaking, having produced a grand total of only two etchings! During his studies at the Munich Academy, which he had begun in 1820, Wittmer enjoyed the special patronage of Peter von Cornelius, whom he assisted inter alia with the execution of the frescoes in the Glyptothek. In the spring of 1828 the young artist received a stipend from King Ludwig I to go to Rome, where his first works attracted attention and earned him a friendly reception from Thorvaldsen, Overbeck, Veit and the mentor of the German artistic community in Rome, Joseph Anton Koch. With the latter Wittmer developed a close friendship, which was crowned in autumn 1833 by his marriage to Koch’s daughter Elena. It is therefore likely that Wittmer was introduced to the art of etching by his father-in-law. His differentiated, refined technique, together with the compositional structure of our Roman veduta – including a rainbow in the typical Koch manner – suggest the strong influence of the older artist.
A very fine, clear and contrasting impression with margins.