At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

2 April 2019

Achille Vianelli - painter and printmaker

A painting by Achille Vianelli of the coastline at Posillipo. Vianelli was a member of the Posillipo School.
A painting by Achille Vianelli of the coastline at Posillipo.
Vianelli was a member of the Posillipo School.

Artist from Liguria who captured scenes of Naples


The painter and printmaker Achille Vianelli, whose specialities were landscapes and genre pictures, notably in his adopted city of Naples, died on this day in 1894 in Benevento in Campania.

For a while he worked at the French court, giving painting lessons to King Louis Philippe. Some of his works have sold for thousands of euros.

Vianelli was born in 1803 in Porto Maurizio in Liguria. When he was a child, his family moved more than 1,200km (750 miles) to the other end of the Italian peninsula to the coastal town of Otranto in the province of Lecce, where his father, Giovan Battista Vianelli, Venetian-born but a French national, had been posted as a Napoleonic consular agent.

Achille spent his youth in Otranto before, in 1819, he moved to Naples. His father and sister moved to France, although they would return to Naples in 1826. Achille took a job in the Royal Topographic Office.

Vianelli was a friend of the painter Giacinto Gigante
Vianelli was a friend of the
painter Giacinto Gigante
In Naples, he became close friends with Giacinto Gigante, with whom he shared an interest in painting. Together, they studied landscape painting, attending the school of the German painter Wolfgang Hüber, after which Vianelli became a pupil of Anton Sminck van Pitloo, a professor at the Accademia di Belli Arti in Naples who had a studio in the Chiaia neighborhood of Naples.

Pitloo is regarded as the father of the Posillipo School, a group of landscape painters, based in the Posillipo area of Naples, a stretch of coastline extending from Mergellina to the headland at Parco Virgiliano, overlooking the volcanic islet of Nisida, on the northern side of the Bay of Naples.

Both Vianelli and Gigante were members of the Posillipo School, along with Teodoro Duclere, Vincenzo Franceschini, Consalvo Carelli and others.

In the 1830s, Vianelli gradually moved away from oil landscape painting, increasingly devoting himself to perspective views of squares and church interiors, in watercolor. He experimented with sepia monochromes, of which he developed a valuable technique.

 Vianelli's view of the Piazza di San
 Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples
Many of his views were etched or lithographed and published in books dedicated to the city of Naples.

In 1848 he moved to Benevento, where he founded a drawing school in the Cloister of Santa Sofia. Among his students was Gaetano de Martini.

Vianelli enjoyed success with his work and his fame spread beyond Italy. King Louis Philippe invited him to give him painting lessons and Vianelli lived in France temporarily. He died in Benevento, at the age of 91 years.

His son Alberto, born in 1847, was also a landscape painter. A sister, Flora, had married Teodoro Witting, a German landscape painter and engraver active in Naples in 1826, while another sister, Eloisa, married Giacinto Gigante in 1831.

Villa Donn'Anna is near Mergellina, at the bottom of the main road through Posillipo, known as Posillipo Hill
Villa Donn'Anna is near Mergellina, at the bottom of the
main road through Posillipo, known as Posillipo Hill
Travel tip:

Posillipo is a residential quarter of Naples that has been associated with wealth in the city since Roman times. Built on a hillside that descends gradually towards the sea, it offers panoramic views across the Bay of Naples towards Vesuvius and has been a popular place to build summer villas. Some houses were built right on the sea’s edge, such as the historic Villa Donn’Anna, which can be found at the start of the Posillipo coast near the harbour at Mergellina.

The magnificent Arch of Trajan is one of several Roman relics in Benevento
The magnificent Arch of Trajan is one of
several Roman relics in Benevento
Travel tip:

In ancient times, Benevento was one of the most important cities in southern Italy, along the Via Appia trade route between Rome and Brindisi. The town is in an attractive location surrounded by the Apennine hills, and it suffered considerable damage during the Second World War, there are many Roman remains, including a triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan and an amphitheatre, built by Hadrian, that held 10,000 spectators and is still in good condition. The cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, originally built in the 13th century, has undergone major reconstruction work, while the original bronze doors for the cathedral are now kept inside the building.

More reading:

The Neapolitan legacy of sculptor and architect Domenico Antonio Vaccaro

How Neapolitan painter Francesco Solimena became one of the most influential artists in Europe

Why Luca Giordano was the most celebrated Naples artist of the late 17th century

Also on this day:

1696: The birth of operatic soprano Francesca Cuzzoni

1725: The birth of amorous adventurer Giacomo Casanova

1959: The birth of Olympic marathon champion Gelindo Bordin



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