Antoine Claude Ponthus Cinier was born in Lyon in 1812. After an initial training at the École des Beux-Arts in Lyon, he moved to Paris to attend Paul Delaroche’s studio. He specialised in classical vedute, which, particularly in his early days, drew on the seventeenth-century and Lorrainian model of a broad, luminous landscape.
The traditional approach to vedute can be seen in the minuteness of the drawing and the presence of naturalistic details, but inserted in an open dimension and almost always pervaded by the golden light that recalls the classicist tradition of the ideal landscape. After taking part in the first exhibitions between Lyon and Paris in the 1830s, he won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1841 with an illustrated landscape, Adam and Eve expelled from Paradise.
Antoine Claude Ponthus Cinier in Rome: views between Classicism and Romanticism
When he arrived in Rome in 1842, the painter from Lyon joined the colony of French artists at the Villa Medici Academy. Directed at the time by Jean-Victor Schnetz, who had recently succeeded Ingres, it encouraged artists to study in the open air, not only in the historical centre but also, and above all, in the Roman countryside.
During his years as an Italian pensioner, Antoine Claude Ponthus Cinier also produced a long series of views of Rome and the surrounding countryside, gradually moving away from the rigidity of the paysage classique, to make room for more personal, life-like shots, reminiscent of those of Camille Corot. Among the most important landscapes of these Italian years, presented at various editions of the Salon de Lyon, are Les Bords du Tibre à Narni, Effet du soir de la Sabine, Souvenir de la villa Pamphili à Rome, Vue du Tibre dans la campagne de Rome, Les Bords de la mer à Neptunio.
Among the works that are decisively linked to a classical and majestic landscape, captured in its most scenographic vein, is View of Rome at sunset with Castel Sant’Angelo e San Pietro. The thrilling reddish light of the Roman sunset comes from the rays of sunlight that spread from behind the Castle and illuminate the evening sky and the pinkish clouds that frame the dome of St. Peter’s, in this view taken from a bend in the river. Even in the placid waters of the Tiber, ploughed by a boat that is docking, the red light of the marvellous wide Roman sunset is reflected.
After his Italian sojourn, in which the painter visited cities other than Rome, such as Florence, Naples, Venice and Genoa, he returned to France after 1844. He took part in the Salon de Lyon until the 1880s, carrying on his distinctive style that placed him between the legacy of the classical landscape and a sharp and, at times, picturesque romanticism.