'Panini must be one of the greatest painters of architecture of all time'
The Interior of the Pantheon, Rome, about 1732, by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691–1765), 47in by 39in, Private Collection
Quinlan Terry says: ‘I am inspired by this picture because it reminds me of my favourite building, which I know well, having sketched and measured parts of it many times; indeed, when I was a Rome Scholar in 1967, it was scaffolded for repairs and I was permitted by the Comune di Roma to measure the main cornice, which is 4ft 2in high!
Panini must be one of the greatest painters of architecture of all time, with a complete understanding of all the Classical orders, solid geometry, the casting of shadows, colour and the placing of figures, so that the whole composition is a masterpiece.’
Quinlan Terry is a Classical architect who works in partnership with his son, Francis
John McEwan says:
Dr Johnson wrote: ‘All our religion, all our arts, almost all that sets us above savages has come to us from the shores of the Mediterranean… the grand object of all travelling.’ The ultimate goal of the 18th-century Grand Tour was Rome, where the principal wonders were the Pantheon and St Peter’s. Michaelangelo, who had been Chief Architect to St Peter’s, said the Pantheon was the work of angels, not men.
The Grand Tour was not confined to noble heirs and their tutors. From England, especially, came the whole range of those in the Arts as well as notable numbers of women. Panini, who was to 18th-century Rome what Canaletto was to Venice, satisfied the market for pictorial mementoes. He painted the interior of the Pantheon many times, disdaining repetition.
The Pantheon remains the best-preserved building of European antiquity. ‘Pantheon’ derives from the Greek: Pan, ‘everything’, teon, ‘divine’. The current temple, third on the site, was completed in ad125 and consecrated a Christian church in 608, hence its survival. Once clad in bronze and marble, it has the world’s largest brick dome. The dome is 142ft high; its climactic oculus (eye), open to the sky, which lights the interior, has a diameter of 27ft. The building contains the tombs of Raphael and the kings of modern Italy.
Panini also popularised topographical fantasies (capricci) and was a pioneer of the romantic genre of ancient ruins. He had a long connection with France and was professor of perspective at Rome’s French Academy. His most famous pupil was the French painter Hubert Robert, ‘Robert des Ruines’.