Simon Alexandre-Clément DENIS

S-Bohm-Simon Denis-Ponte S.Rocco Tivoli


Simon Alexandre-Clément DENIS

(1755 Antwerp - 1812/13 Naples)

"View of Ponte S.Rocco Tivoli"

c. 1793

oil on canvas

24 x 19 in. - 61 x 48 cm


Period frame stamped INFROIT 

Photo-certificate by Valentina Branchini March 11, 2012


Preis auf Anfrage

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1993 Sotheby's Monaco (as école française, XVIIIème siècle);

Collection Prof.Dr. Beuker, Meerbusch / Germany;

Private collection, Switzerland


SIMON DENIS is best regarded as an early practitioner of plein-air painting. In his native city of Antwerp he was a pupil of Hendrik Joseph Antonissen, and active in Paris from 1755, where he settled in the 1770s before leaving to Rome in 1784.

Denis was closely associated with the French picture dealer Jean-Baptiste Lebrun, as well as his more famous wife, the painter Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, with whom he spent time in Italy. He also enjoyed a close relationship with the head of the French academy in Rome.

After trips to the south of Italy, he settled 1804 to Naples, where he became 1806 court painter to Joseph Bonaparte, King of Naples. From 1809 until his death in 1813, he was professor at the academy in Naples. 

Although Denis was not an official student of French landscape painter Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes, he followed the elder and more famous artist's example. Denis' cloud studies probably predate Valenciennes' influential 1800 treatise on landscape, which emphasized direct observation from nature. Both men were among the first to produce oil-on-paper sketches outdoors, a practice that became increasingly popular in the 1800s. Denis specialized in landscapes of famous sites, such as the waterfalls of Tivoli near Rome. His technique was exact and detailed and he paid great attention to naturalistic details and light effects. During his period in Rome he also made oil sketches in the open air, which unusually he often signed and annotated. 

His highly finished landscape paintings often appear rather academic and less convincing than the wonderfully free and vibrant studies executed plein-air.

Although executed on canvas, the present work is as dynamic as the oil sketches, representing a famous site, popular among traveling artists since the 17th century. 

The same view by Fragonard is in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris (inv.1110), and by Granet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1996.181).



Valentina Branchini, Simon Denis (1755-1813) in Italia. Dipinti e disegni di paesaggio. Bologna, 2003.

Claudia Nordhoff, who prepares a publication about views of the famous site, dates the execution between 1790 and 1808, when the bridge was destroyed by an earthquake.