Frans Vervloet (Mechelen 1795 - 1872 Venice)
The Abbey of Montecassino, 1826
Oil on canvas, 42 x 32.5 cm
Signed, inscribed and dated lower left F. Vervloet / Monti Cassino / 1826
Private collection, Austria
The inner courtyard of the Abbey of Montecassino, the principal monastery of the Benedictine Order, is filled with life. Founded by Benedict of Nursia in 529, Montecassino was one of the most important spiritual centers of the Middle Ages. It has been repeatedly destroyed and built up again in the course of its history. When Vervloet painted the monastery in 1826, he saw it as it had been re-erected after the severe earthquake of 1349, together with the Renaissance and Baroque additions. After the devastation caused by the Second World War, the monastery was reconstructed according to the original building plans, which makes Frans Vervloet’s painting not only an extremely attractive veduta, but also a document of the eventful architectural history of this famous monastery.
Vervloet depicted the inner courtyard of the second cloister in central perspective. He used one of the arches of the first cloister as a central gateway, through which the viewer enters the pictorial space. The architecture is attributed to the Renaissance architect Donato Bramante. An octagonal well is situated in the middle ground. Two statues are recognizable at the foot of the stairs in the background: Saint Benedict at left; Saint Scholastica at right. Vervloet’s work is notable for his mastery of perspective and his skillful rendering of light effects.
Frans Verlvoet, who came from a Belgian family of painters, studied at the academy in his native town of Mechelen. He began early on to concentrate on architectural painting. From 1818 onwards, Vervloet taught at the academy, but moved the center of his activities to Brussels in 1821. The following year the Société pour l’encouragement des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles offered him a two-year stipend to travel to Rome. He spent July and August in Paris, and arrived in Rome in September. The churches and ruins in and around Rome quickly became his favorite subjects, and his work was sought after by a demanding clientele throughout Europe. In 1824, William I, King of the Netherlands, bought the painting Interior View of Saint Peter‘s (now Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) for 2,400 francs, as the painter noted in his diary.
When his stipend ran out in August 1824, Vervloet moved to Naples, which became his home for the next 30 years. The years up to 1830, in particular, are important to the further development of Neapolitan painting. Together with his friend, the Dutch painter Anton Sminck Pitloo (1790-1837), a teacher at the local art academy and founder of the so-called School of Posillipo, Vervloet became the chief exponent of Neapolitan landscape painting. His patrons include the Tsar’s family (two views of the Villa Floridiana, 1845/1846) and King Ferdinand II. In search of new motifs, Vervloet traveled extensively throughout Italy – he was in Venice as early as 1834-1835 – and also spent some time in Istanbul in 1844. Vervloet is recorded in Venice from 1854 until his death in 1872. The Museo Correr owns a large number of his drawings as well as his diaries
 On Frans Vervloet, see Denis Coeckelberghs, ‘Francois Vervloet’, in Les peintres belges à Rome de 1700 à 1830, Brussels 1976, pp. 328-349.  Around 1820, Pitloo opened a private painting school in his house in the Vico del Vasto in Chiaia, which became a point of contact for talented young artists, such as Achille Vianelli, Giacinto Gigte, Gabriele Smargiassi and Teodoro Duclère, his future son-in-law. From this initiative developed the “School of Posillipo,” which revived the veduta tradition of the eighteenth century by turning to plein-air painting. Cf. Marina Causa Picone and Stefano Causa (eds.), Pitloo. Luci e colori del paesaggio napoletano, exhib. cat. Naples, Museo Pignatelli, Naples 2004, pp. 89-118.