The English painter Bonington traveled to Italy for the first time in the spring of 1826. This is one of the first paintings he produced while there, on or about April 11. His traveling companion wrote that “We are in Milan, where at last we have unpacked and put to use our color boxes. We have painted the interior of the cathedral, nocturnal effect, and I think that if Bonington can produce the paintings he has sketched his reputation will be made.” Like the view of The Grand Canal, Venice also in the Kimbell's collection, this sketch was painted on site, the oil colors applied with skill and speed in the presence of the motif. Later, Bonington would use both sketches as the models for further works. The Venetian view, with boats and figures added, served as the basis for a smaller oil painting (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.), while this Milanese sketch was copied in a highly finished watercolor, in which the figures were positioned differently (The Wallace Collection, London). True to predictions, the finished paintings produced from his Italian sketches made Bonington’s reputation in the nineteenth century; in modern times his sketches are equally—if not more—admired.
(Richard Parkes Bonington studio sale, Sotheby and Co., London, June 29-30, 1829, 2nd day, no. 212, “Interior of a Church, Milan”);
purchased by Lord Charles Townshend [1785-1853], Rainham Hall, Norfolk, for £32 11s;
(his sale, Christie & Mason, London 11 April, 1835, no. 15, as Bonnington (sic) “Interior of an ancient Italian church”);
purchased though (Robert Hume) for William Beckford [1760-1844], Bath, England, for £36 15s.
D. Bennett, Ash Tree Cottage, Burwash, Sussex, England;
(Christie’s, sale, London, 13 December 1946, no. 128, as David Roberts “Serving Mass,” purchased by Lesser for 15 guineas).
(Lilla Bukowskis, sale, Stockholm, 22 May 1995, no. 33, as David Roberts “Serving Mass,” sold for 9000 SE ).
(Leonard Walley, Garland, Texas), by 2003;
(Neal Auction Company, New Orleans, 5 April 2003, no. 87, as David Roberts “Interior of Cathedral,”) unsold;
(Leonard Walley, Garland, Texas);
purchased by Mac Shafer, Mineral Wells, Texas, 19 June 2004;
purchased by the Kimbell Art Foundation Fort Worth, 2015.