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From the collection of the last Queen of Naples

[La Pira, Gioacchino, Italian painter (active 1839-1870) - attrib.]. A group of nineteen masterly gouaches of Naples and surroundings from the collection of Maria Sophie, Duchess in Bavaria and last Queen consort of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Naples, ca. 1855-1866.

Gouaches on paper, all ca. 435 x 645 mm, sheet size 555 x 770 mm (all in oblong orientation). Mostly captioned in the tinted margin. Stored in custom-made green quarter leather, cloth and wood cassette, ca. 1860s, likely of Bavarian manufacture, with decorative gilt and relief cover borders bearing the cover title "Neapel", gilt imitation book-edge sides, both covers with brass corner and central bosses and ornamental applications.

A collection of 19 uncommonly large masterly gouaches showing views of Naples and the environs, formerly owned by Maria Sophie Amalia (1841-1925), who in 1859 had married King Francis II of the Two Sicilies and was the last Queen of Naples until the couple was deposed in 1861.

Souvenir gouaches of this kind became a fixture of the Neapolitan tourist trade as early as the first half of the 19th century, and their oft-removed cousins remain available in Naples to this day, but they are almost invariably of inferior artistic quality and rarely exceed the size of an oblong folio sheet. The present ensemble, by contrast, measures nearly twice that size and is unquestionably the work of one of the most talented painters who catered to the affluent grand tourists of the mid-19th century. While unsigned, most pieces are attributable by their accomplished style to the workshop of the Neapolitan artist Gioacchino La Pira, whose works are found in private collections internationally. This set of gouaches, undoubtedly costly and preserved in perfect condition in their contemporary custom-made cassette, was removed from the collections of the House of Wittelsbach, formerly the royal family of Bavaria. It was assembled by Maria Sophie of Bavaria, who by her marriage to Francis II became Queen of Naples at the age of seventeen - a title she famously defended against Garibaldi's armies, gun in hand, on the battlements of Gaeta. She must have acquired the set sometime in the later 1860s, during the years the exiled royal couple were based in Rome, before they removed themselves, in 1870, to Paris and Maria's native Bavaria - an appropriate final souvenir from the city and country she once could call her own.


For La Pira see Castelnuovo/Barbera, La pittura in Italia. L'Ottocento II (Milan 1991); F. C. Greco, La pittura napoletana dell'Ottocento (Naples 1993).