Rudolf von Alt-View from the Torre del Mangia to the Basilica of San Francesco in Siena, 1871

Rudolf von Alt
View from the Torre del Mangia to the Basilica of San Francesco in Siena, 1871
Watercolour on paper, 37.5 x 53 cm (inside passe-partout)
Signed at lower right: R Alt
€ 25,000–50,000

The Beckoning Call of the South…

…was heard by Rudolf von Alt in June of 1871, and it so captivated him that he ended up spending nearly a year in the land where the lemon trees blossom. It was his final great journey, one from which he long benefitted artistically once returned to his Viennese studio. He’d set out to do quite a bit when he struck out early that summer, traveling in part by train, frequently by horse-drawn coach, and only rarely by foot. His first stop was Venice—familiar ground—after which he continued on to Bologna, Orvieto, Siena, Florence, and Milan, before arriving in Rome in October.

Siena, in the Heart of Tuscany

It strikes one as almost surprising that Rudolf von Alt only once visited this famous city enthroned in the midst of the Tuscan hills. But he does seem to have been in a constant hurry; only this one time did he stop here—for just over a month, from 26 September to 29 October 1871. And as always, his fascination zeroed in on just a couple of special spots: the cathedral and the famous Piazza del Campo along with its Torre del Mangia. This tower offered him a rare luxury: a grandiose, sweeping view!

The View from Above

Autumn, its light so golden and warm, sends a final farewell greeting before winter. Three days before he had planned to depart, the painter took it upon himself to climb the 400 steps of this dominant tower to enjoy the wonderful view of the city and its environs. It was well worth it, for everything indeed did look entirely different from up here, looking down on the picturesquely compact ensembles of buildings crowned by churches amidst the vastness of the surrounding landscape. His gaze settled on the hallowed old Basilica of San Francesco, built shortly after St. Francis’s death; it was situated all too attractively over on the opposite hill, still embedded in the medieval city wall and framed by the buildings of the convent and the surrounding neighbourhood. This building still displays its original brick façade; only after 1894 would it be reclad in the Neo-Gothic style.

City and Nature in Harmony

This is what the painter saw. And in an alternating mix of precise lines and a soft, slightly blurred application of colour, Alt employed a delicate painterly rhythm to translate this view and imbue it with the harmonious melody of the South. In its unison of earthy hues running from brown to olive green, elements of the landscape and the architecture unite and give rise to a magnificent symbiosis and a masterly impression. Satisfied, Alt climbed back down, carefully stowing away his sheet of paper. He would never return to this theme, but like his painting in general, this work was to remain unique.

This painting will go up for bidding on 18 October 2017 in the auction “19th & 20th-Century Paintings” at Auktionshaus im Kinsky.

Text: Marianne Hussl-Hörmann, Auktionshaus im Kinsky