Gabriele Mariano Nicolai Carelli (1820/21-1900), sometimes known as Gabriel Carelli
To the anglophone public, Gabriele Carelli is the best-known member of a dynasty of Italian landscape painters. First taken up by the Duke of Devonshire, he soon developed a distinguished clientele for his fresh topographical watercolours of Europe and the Middle East. From 1880, Queen Victoria became a great favourite of his work.
Gabriele Carelli was born in Naples, the second son of the painter, Raffaele Carelli (1795-1864), a member of the ‘scuola di Posilippo’. Like his elder brother, Consalvo (1818-1900), he first studied under his father. In 1837, he moved, with Consalvo, to Rome to continue his studies, and remained there for three years.
Returning to Naples, he launched his career, in 1841, by showing an interior of a chapel at the Mostra Borbonica. By the mid 1840s, he was listed alongside his father as having a studio at Largo del Vasto in the Neapolitan district of Chiaia.
Since the mid 1830s, Raffaele Carelli had been patronised by William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, and travelled with him on tours of Sicily (1834) and Asia Minor (1839). Early in 1847, Gabriele Carelli also received his patronage, and travelled with him to England as his personal painter. During the months that he spent in the country, he became acquainted with the Devonshire estates and befriended some of the Duke’s employees – notably the gardener, Joseph Paxton.
Gabriele Carelli probably returned to Italy in October 1847. In the following May, he and his younger brother, Achille (1856-1936), joined in the failed nationalist revolt against the Bourbons. It is said that their father had wanted the family to migrate to England to avoid the revolt, but in the end had to hide his sons in his studio so that they would evade capture. Once the trouble had receded, the artists returned to their work, Gabriele developing under the influence of the Belgian painter, Frans Vervloet, who was working in Naples and had joined the ‘scuola di Posilippo’. Among other exhibits during this period, Gabriele showed two works at the Esposizione di Belle Arti di Napoli, in 1851.
From 1860, Gabriele Carelli spent increasingly longer times in England and developed a distinguished clientele. However, until 1866, he retained a base in Naples. Among other Neapolitan artists, John Murray’s A Handbook for Travellers in Southern Italy for 1865 recommended the following:
Carelli (Gonsalvo), 66, Carelli (Gabriele and Achille), 57, Riviera di Chiaia – a family of artists; Gonsalvo and Gabriele are excellent drawing masters in crayon and water-colours, who paint views in oil and water-colours of the costumes and scenery round Naples (page 82)
By July 1866, Gabriele had moved to England, and he soon settled at ‘Woodcote’, Kenilworth, Warwickshire. He either rented this property from Henry Hicks, a coal merchant, or shared it with him, and he continued to use the address until 1883. His London addresses for the same period include 18 Burton Street, Bloomsbury (1875), 12 Petersham Terrace (now Gloucester Road), South Kensington (1877) and 13 St George’s Square, Pimlico (1880-81). He married Martha Kent in 1868, and she gave birth to their son, Conrad (1869-1956), a year later. Eventually, he would become a British subject.
Though he was unsuccessful in his candidature to the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1866, Gabriele Carelli would exhibit interiors and landscapes at a number of London venues, including four works at the Royal Academy (1866-80), and in Liverpool and Manchester. He also continued to exhibit in Italy, and was awarded a prize from the Società Promotrice di Belle Arti in Naples in 1871. His exhibits were based on sketches that he made on regular and extensive travels across Britain and Europe, and to North Africa and the Middle East.
Following a tour of Spain in 1879-80, Gabriel Carelli was brought to the notice of Queen Victoria. (According to an obituary of Carelli in The Builder in 1900, this was through Lady Waterpark , a Lady-in-Waiting to her Majesty.) He sold her a number of watercolours and, in the years 1880-83, also fulfilled a commission to record the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore.
Other projects of the period include illustrations to his wife’s article, ‘Urbino’, written to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the birth of Raphael, and published in the American magazine, Manhattan, in December 1883.
Late in the century, Carelli and his family wintered in Menton, on the French Riviera. He would die there in December 1900. Martha died 12 years later.
Their son, Conrad, became an artist, and worked in a looser version of his father’s style. For a while he lived and exhibited in Menton.
Consalvo’s son, Giuseppe Carelli (1858-1921), was also a painter.
Henry Graves and Co held a memorial show of Carelli’s watercolours in 1902.
Gabriele Carelli’s work is represented in the Royal Collection.
Further reading: Oreste Ferrari, ‘Carelli, Raffaele’, Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia, 1977, vol 20, pages 65-67 (which includes reference to Gabriele Carelli on pages 66-67)