A view of the church Santa Maria della Grotto, on the beach at the street of Messina
inscribed ‘Grot Kerk/ Messina’ (?) (verso, glued down to the old mount)
black lead, pen and brown ink, watercolour, brown ink and gold framing lines
125 x 214 mm.
Jonas Witsen (1733-1788); Terwen, van der Schley, Yver, Ploos van Amstel and De Bosch, at Dankmeyer & Zoon, Amsterdam, 16 August 1790 ff., possibly Kunstboek F, part of lot 37 (‘Twee dito, een verbeeldende de hoek van Calabrio en een andere, zeer uitvoerig met dito, door denzelven’ (together with lot 38 Nlg. 4,10.
Possibly acquired at or after the sale by or on behalf of Cornelis Ploos van Amstel’s niece Anna Ploos van Amstel (1735-1805) and her husband Jan Stadlander (1731-1802), by descent to their daughter Cornelia Margaretha (1766-1836) and her husband Gerrit Blaauw (1750-1825), by descent to their son Jean Blaauw (1791-1871), by descent to his son Certainly Gerrit Blaauw (1821-1894), by descent to his son Abraham Jacob Blaauw (1861-1945), and by descent to the present owner, preserved in an 18th Century portfolio.
Willem Schellinks’s two large views of the Street of Messina in the Atlas van der Hem, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, both include the Santa Maria della Grotta in the foreground. These two views are based on Schellink’s sketches done in 1664 (P. van der Krogt, E. de Groot, The Atlas Blaeu – van der Hem of the Austrian National Library, II, ’t Goy-Houten, 1999, pp. 137-138, nos. 10-11 and 10-12, both illustrated). Van Call may well have seen the church from a ship in situ on his way from or to Malta. In this watercolour the proportions are slightly altered, possibly because Van Call drew from memory, or after a rough sketch, but all details of the Santa Maria della Grotta can be clearly identified. The sale of the Jonas Witsen collection included at least to other views of Messina, included in lot 36 in Kunstboek F (‘Twee ditto naar de Vuurtoren van Messina, uitvoerig met ditto, door denzelven’).
The Santa Maria della Grotta was commissioned by Emanuele Filiberto in 1622, designed by the architect Simone Gulli, who had already constructed several buildings in Messina. Filibeto’s death in 1624 delayed the further construction, which was finished in 1639 under the guidance of Don Francesco de Mello of Portugal. The Church survived the earthquake of 1783, and was decorated with extensive details. The earthquake of 1908 heavily damaged the church, which was only reconstructed in 1928.
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