117. Simon Denis

Antwerp 1755 – 1813 Naples

View of Tivoli at Night

A Tivoly, Peint de nuit (In Tivoli, painted at night) is written on the back of this rather spectacular view of a tempest by Simon Denis, next to an abbreviation of his name and the number 50. The sketch is part of a group of 160 numbered open-air studies which Denis kept in his studio and classified according to motif. The artist appears to have been fond of dramatic scenes from nature, often favouring intense light effects such as sunsets and stormy clouds. In the case of this study, the nocturnal tonal greyness of the mountain and the sky is contrasted with the luminous accent of the thunderbolt and the smoke rising on the right. Denis regularly added a figure to his works, such as the one seen running for shelter along a path at the centre of this composition. It helps to indicate the dimensions of the architecture and the natural elements, but also enhances the sense of excitement that the painter must have experienced on the spot.