One of the salons of the Villa Paolina in Rome, with the Princess Zenaide, her children and her sister Charlotte
Jodocus Sebastiaen van den Abeele (Gand 1797 - 1855)
After an early education at the Academy of Gand, Abeele, took himself in Paris in 1818, staying there until 1823, and to the workshop of J.A.Gros, where he was introduced by J.L.David, an exile in Brussels. In this period he preferred subjects with historical, mythological or religious content. At the end of 1823 he went to Rome to perfect his understanding, having spent time with Belgian artists such as F. Vervloet and M. Verstappen, who pushed him towards more popular themes. He was particularly influenced by di F.M.Granet’s pictures of interiors, especially religious architecture. His scenes of daily life, which show precise study of costumes and hairstyles, clearly reference Léopold Robert and Pinelli, inexhaustible sources of subjects. In Rome, where he stayed until 1830, he spent time among the French community, and became the drawing teacher of Luigi Napoleon Bonaparte, and a guest of his mother, Hortense, at the Villa Paolina from 1824 to 1830. After 1830 Abeele moved to Florence, still as a member of the Bonaparte entourage: he assiduously visited the Palazzo Serristori to which Charlotte Bonaparte, now a widow, had moved. In the albums of the latter are conserved numerous watercolours of interiors by the artist, both of Florence and Rome, where he stayed for some months in 1836, before definitively leaving Italy.
The watercolour, which certainly came from one of Charlotte’s albums, is not signed, but can be ascribed with certainty to Abeele, on the basis the tiny, nervous strokes, the fine figures, and the sensibility of colour. The room, whose walls and vaulted ceiling are decorated in a neoclassical style, is furnished with simple furniture: “a heavy imperial divan with d’Aubusson tapestry, several light Chiavari seats, a long divan on which are placed a series of cushioned embroidered in cross-stitch”.
The artist depicts the details minutely, concentrating particularly on the tapestry: the rapidity of the strokes does not prevent us from recognising the motif on the first cushion, placed against the back of the divan to the right: the giraffe given to Carlo X by the Pasha of Egypt, not long before 1830. Not only Zenaide, the owner of the Villa Paolina from 1827, depicted sitting among her children Giuseppe, Giulia, Charlotte and Maria can be identified, but also her sister Charlotte at the window with Leonia and Luigi Luciano next to her, and, in the cradle, her last born, Augusta. Zenaide is known to have received Giacomo Leopardi in the Villa during the last months of his second visit to Rome.
Masterpieces of the hall
This room, dedicated to Pauline Bonaparte Borghese, concentrates particularly on her stay in Rome from 1816 to 1825 in the Villa Paolina. The villa, is located between between the Aurelian Walls, Via Piave and Via XX Settembre, and from 1950 the French Embassy to the Holy See was housed there. Pauline bought it in 1816, delighted by its situation and the elegance of its design. The watercolours on display show its elegance, which extended to the interior, which was decorated by Pauline herself in a purely French taste.