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Jakob Philipp Hackert (1737-1807)

Waterfall on the River Liri at Anitrella Signed and dated 1793

Oil on canvas | 77.8 x 63.0 x 1.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external) | RCIN 406343

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  • Jakob Philipp Hackert, the eldest and most famous of five artist brothers, studied with father, Philipp. In 1758 he trained at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin; in 1765-8 he visited Paris, where he met Claude Joseph Vernet (1714-89). In 1768 Hackert travelled to Italy, where he remained for the rest of his career, apart from a study tour to Switzerland in 1778; in Italy he became court painter to Ferdinand I (1751-1825) in Naples and a friend of Goethe. Revolution of 1799 forced him to leave Naples and settle near Florence. The Royal Collection contains four signed landscapes by Hackert (RCIN 403559-60, 406121 and 406343), none with a secure provenance.

    On the 15th October 1793, Hackert wrote from Naples to his friend, Count Dönhoff, ‘In the Spring I made a trip to Abruzzo Ultra, where at Avezzano I saw the ‘Tunnels of Claudius’, which are very interesting. Apart from this I have found beautiful and delightful things throughout the entire journey: Isola di Sora [now called Isola del Liri] is another Tivoli and some 4 miles from Isola alle Anatrelle [Anitrella], where the Iri [Liri] river plunges through cliffs in a deep valley in one of the most beautiful waterfalls, which I have drawn several times; it was completely unknown to painters, I am the first to have drawn it this century.’ Hackert's discovery of a 'new Tivoli' is reflected in two drawings in the Dresden Gallery (C1961; 132-2), both inscribed ‘La Cascata delle Anatrelle a quarto Milia d’Isola di Sora Filippo Hackert f. 1793’. Several paintings also relate to this visit: in the artist’s own catalogue of his works left at his death there were two paintings described as ‘La Cascade du Garigliano à Anatrelle à huite milles de l’ile de Sora’ and ‘Autre cascade à quelque distance au dessores d’Anatrelle’ (see Lohse 1936, p. 152, no 39 & 40). A painting of this subject was destroyed in Potsdam in 1945 and another sold at Sotheby’s on the 8th November 1972 (Lot 84). This painting in the Royal Collection, the third treatment of the subject, appears to have escaped scholarly attention. It is inscribed 'La perdita del’ Liri alle Anatrelle, a quarto milia dall’ Isola di Sora Filillo Hackert dipinse 1793 ('The perdita of the Liri at Anatrelle four miles from Isola di Sora, Philip Hackert painted 1793’). The only puzzle in this inscription, and where it differs from the others quoted above, is the use of the word ‘perdita’ (the Italian for ‘lost’), here apparently meaning waterfall.

    In this late work Hackert uses a clarity of outline, associated with age of Neo-Classicism and the technique of watercolour. The Italian watercolours of Hackert’s contemporary, Francis Towne (1739-1816), are strikingly similar. This is remarkable as the subject of a waterfall would usually imply something wild, romantic and imprecise.


    First recorded at Windsor in 1894

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas


    77.8 x 63.0 x 1.8 cm (support, canvas/panel/stretcher external)

    98.4 x 85.8 x 8.6 cm (frame, external)

  • Alternative title(s)

    "La Perdita del Liri a Anatrelle"

    Italian landscape with a waterfall