Attributed to Pieter Moninckx (The Hague 1605-1686 The Hague) Grotto with the fountain of nymph Egeria

According to Houbraken, Pieter Moninckx was 13 years in service of Pope Urban VIII (1568-1644) during the period of 1623-1644.[1] He was also active in The Hague between 1637 and 1672 where he was one of the founding members of Pictura in 1656. Schatborn places the 13 years in Italy between 1656 and 1672 where he visited Rome, Civitavecchia, Pisa and Livorno. The dates given by Schatborn are more likely, as the signed drawing in Berlin depicts the harbour of Civitavecchia with the fortification designed by Donato Bramante (1444-1514) in 1505 which was completed by Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475-1564) in 1535 and on the right the arsenal designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) of which the building was commenced in 1660.[2]

Two signed drawings, one in the collection Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin and one in the collection Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York show closely related and comparable stylistic similarities to our drawing.[3][4]

The idiosyncratic use of brush and grey ink over brush and brown ink for the tree and vegetation in the lower right corner of the Berlin sheet shows great similarity to the rendering of the tree above the Grotto of Egeria in our drawing. This use of brush and grey ink over brush and brown ink is also present in the reed in the lower centre and the hanging vegetation on the left wing of the Porta San Paolo in the signed drawing in New York.

A third (signed) sheet in Brunswijk, depicting a view on the San Teodoro in Rome, shows windows which closely resemble the windows in our recently discovered Grotto of Egeria drawing.

A first strong supporting argument for our drawing most probably to have been drawn in situ, is the presence of the tondo above the fountain in the apsis of the Grotto (which was filled with bricks during later centuries). This tondo lacks in drawings by contemporaries like Jan Asselijn (1610-1652) and Willem Schellinks (1623-1678), who copied after Asselijn.[6][7]

Secondly, the fountain is depicted in working condition with running water, which also supports the statement for the present sheet to have been drawn in situ.

The Grotto, which is located  in the Parco Appia Antico, close to the gate of Rome (Porta Capena),  is dedicated to the water-nymph Egeria, who was worshipped in association with the goddess Diana (Ovid, Metamorphoses). She was believed to have a supporting role during childbirth. Egeria was the wife to the Roman king Numa Pompilius, who she counseled and after whose death Egeria melted into tears of sorrow and transformed into a spring. This spring is surrouned by walls, which creates a well called Lacus Salutatis, lake of health. Herodes Atticus built a cupula over the well in the second century which formed the present arched interior with an apsidal end where the statue of Egeria once stood in a niche.



[1] Arnold Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen ... zijnde een vervolg op het schilderboek van K. van Mander.
J. Swart, C. Boucquet en M. Gaillard, 'sGravenhage, 1753, Vol. I, p. 275.

[2] Peter Schatborn, Tekenen van warmte, 17de-eeuwse Nederlandse tekenaars in Italië.
Waanders Uitgevers/Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, 2001. p. 161-164.

[3] Pieter Moninckx, Pyramid of Cestius and the Porta San Paolo, Rome.
Brush and brown ink over black chalk. Framing line in pen and black ink, 177 x 286 mm.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. inv. nr. 1977.166

[4] Pieter Moninckx, View on the harbour of Civitavecchia.
Pencil, brush in brown, blue and grey ink, 206 x 387 mm.
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett, inv. nr. KdZ 11645

[5] Pieter Moninckx, View on the San Teodoro in Rome.
Black chalk, brush and brown ink, brown wash, 247 x 315 mm.
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Brunswijk. inv. nr. Z 515.

[6] Jan Asselijn, Ruins of the so-called grotto or fountain of Egeria, near Rome; with a sculpture of a recumbent figure to left.
Brush drawing in brown and grey wash, over graphite , 252 x 357 mm.
British Museum, London. inv. no. Oo,10.144

[7] Willem Schellinks, De grot van de nimf Egeria.
Brush and grey ink, grey wash, 292 x 413 mm.
Museum de Fundatie, Zwolle. inv. no. 0000002796

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