Carel Max Quaedvlieg was born in Valkenburg, Holland, in 1823. The son of the mayor of the town, he showed artistic talent from an early age. Encouraged by his family to follow his talent, he first attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and then that of Düsseldorf.
In the very first years of production in Holland and Germany, the painter worked mainly on sacred themes, drawing on the tradition of the 16th and 17th centuries, based on meticulous drawing and transparent, impeccable colouring.
The move to Rome: the Ponte Molle Society
In the early 1950s, following the premature death of his wife, Carel Max Quaedvlieg moved to Rome, a city that welcomed him and where he remained until the end of his life. He immediately became part of the circle of German artists in Rome, first by becoming a member of the Pontemolle Gesellschaft, the Ponte Molle Society, then of its natural continuation, the Deutscher Künstlerverein, the Association of German Artists.
He was therefore one of the foreign artists who frequented the area of Ponte Milvio, following in the footsteps of the so-called “Poussin’s walk” which proceeded along the banks of the Tiber in the Flaminio area. But Carel Max Quaedvlieg’s artistic activity in Rome is above all known for his assiduous incursions into the nearby Roman countryside, particularly that around the river Aniene.
The Roman countryside
We have evidence of this in one of his best-known paintings, executed together with the English painter Robert Alexander Hillingford, The Carnival of the Germans. The large canvas gives us a faithful reconstruction of the famous “festival of the German artists” of 1856, at the Torre Salaria, on the Aniene. Previously, this festival took place in the picturesque location of the Cervara caves, beloved by foreign artists not only for its natural beauty, but also for the power of the genius loci, which shows itself in the mysterious caverns of the tuff quarries. The festival, which took place at the same time as the Roman carnival, masterfully described by Dumas in the Count of Montecristo, set in about the same year, became very famous over time, so much so that it is narrated in the painting by Quaedvlieg and Hillingford, in a blaze of costumes and masks, floats and horses.
However, the artist soon found favour with Princess Marianne, sister of the Dutch King William II. In fact, she granted him a splendid studio in the Villa Celimontana, where for almost a year he devoted himself to the works commissioned by the princess: almost all of them were historiated views, animated by picturesque scenes, animal rests and country conversations, which fit into the atmospheric and classical magic of the Roman landscape. What distinguishes Carel Max Quaedvlieg’s Roman production is a diffuse and very clear luminosity that makes every naturalistic detail sharp and evident, as can be seen in the painting The stop. In this painting, two donkeys are waiting for their masters, whose clothes can be seen lying on the ground, in a picturesque and dreamy dimension of the mid-nineteenth-century Roman countryside.