Giovanni Paolo Panini: Viewmaker of Ancient and Modern Rome

Juliette Bellacosa and Tatyana Johnson

Giovanni Paolo Panini (1691-1765), a Piacenza-born artist, was a celebrated painter of views of modern and ancient Rome and a prolific architect and draftsman during the eighteenth century. As both painter and teacher, Panini was versatile in his craft and, accordingly, was highly respected for his contribution to the art scene in Italy.

 In his hometown of Piacenza, Panini received formal training in landscape painting and perspective, after which he moved to Rome where he studied under a Florentine portrait painter, Benedetto Luti (1666-1724).[1]  It was not long before he would be recognized for his talent.  Within ten years of his arrival to Rome, Panini received membership in the Congregazione dei Virtuosi al Pantheon and the Accademia di San Luca--an exceptional achievement for a markedly new artist. Several accomplishments followed including membership to the Parisian Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture and the opening of his own workshop where he passed along his painting techniques to Hubert Robert (1733-1808) and others.[2]

Panini’s youth was marked by success as a painter; yet, he also established himself as a prolific architect, designing the chapel in Santa Maria della Scalla and Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga’s (1690-1756) villa, in addition to temporary sites for public festivals.[3] In the latter half of his lifetime, Panini developed works for which he is now most celebrated--panoramic cityscapes, or vedute, of Italy.  Unlike Canaletto (1697-1768), whose name was associated with bustling views of urban waterways in Venice, Panini focused his attention upon both the ruins of ancient Rome and modern landscapes.[4]  In doing so, he intended to capture the regard of English and French intellectuals and antiquarians interested in the fashionable Grand Tour and its preoccupation with all things classically Greco-Roman, including art, philosophy, and architecture.

Following his death at the age of seventy-three, his two sons, Giovanni and Francesco, carried on Panini’s legacy as architects and painters, while supplying engravers with their father’s compositions for print reproductions.[5]


[1] Nancy Coe Wixom and Martin Linsey, "Panini: Interior of the Pantheon, Rome," The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 62, no. 9 (1975): 263-69. http://0-

[2] “Giovanni Paolo Panini (Italian, 1691–1765) (Getty Museum), “The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles, accessed April 12, 2017,, and “Index of Selected Artists in the Collection, “Panini_Roman Ruins, accessed April 12, 2017, http:/

[3] Wixom and Linsey, 263, and Thomas Buser, "Miracle in Giovanni Paolo Panini’s “The Marriage at Cana,” Notes in the History of Art 20, no. 4 (2001): 30-34. 

[4] Katharine Baetjer, "'Canaletti Painting': On Turner, Canaletto, and Venice." Metropolitan Museum Journal 42, (2007): 163-17.

[5] Wixom and Linsey, 264.