Locatelli’s painting of the salt pans near Ostia

Andrea Locatelli (Rome, 1695 – 1741): “View of the Salt Pans near Ostia“, 89 x 137 cm.


Recently this painting was sold to a private collector by the Matthiesen Gallery in London. From their website:

(..) In 1833 most of Ponte Galeria, formerly Campo Saline, was acquired by the Genoese Pallavicini family. Since this painting came originally from the collections of the Rospigliosi family, which from the end of the seventeenth century was closely allied with the Pallavicini, it is not improbable that the painting entered their collection in the nineteenth century when the latter acquired this property (..).
This Marine Landscape retains many obvious topographical features rare in Locatelli’s oeuvre which, for the most part, are fantasy classical landscapes. In the foreground we observe a few shepherds with animals grazing and, in the centre, the salt works with fishermen intent on their task. On the land there is a small warehouse used to store salt deposits. In front of this, a few figures are loading mules and horses with goods. This painting represents one of the finest examples of Locatelli’s view paintings, much rarer than his idealized landscapes.

The location must effectively be near Ostia, since at the time the Maccarese salt pans where not active any more. In the background one observes the unmistakable outline of the Colli Albano volcano, which is well visible from Ostia. The relief to the right could be that of Castel Porziano.
The view is to the east, so the sun is rising, probably in the summer (the tree might be a deciduous oak), the right season for salt extraction.
There are evident wooden structures to catch and conserve fish (the zigzag lines, like the lavorieri of the lagoon of Venice or the acconci of Puglia), and towards the little building there seem to be salt pans and mounds. The two functions often went together in the same plant, as until recently was the case in Comacchio (FE), which can clearly be seen on an image of Google Earth of 2005.

acconcio fishing system of Puglia
“lavoriero” of the lagoon of Comacchio (FE); foto Sargentini.
The salt works of Comacchio on an image of Google Earth of 2005: salt pans to the east and south, fishing ponds and “lavorieri” to the west and north.

See also the pages Ostia & Portus and Le saline tirreniche, and the article The quest for Grosseto’s original saltworks.