Imagine you are a member of a wealthy British aristocratic family in your twenties and living in the 18th century. Part of your high-class education was to visit the South of Europe and especially Italy (the "Grand Tour" as it is known). Then, because photography was not yet invented, you needed a portrait in Rome to celebrate your visit there, possibly with ruins and antique statues surrounding to prove that you were ther.
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, (1708-1787), self portrait
Pompeo Batoni was the painter in Rome you would go.
Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca, Italy 25 January 1708 – Rome, 4 February 1787) is for this reason also called the "most British Italian painter". Working faster and probablly asking less money than more famous portraitist, he became wealthy himself by using is "canvas as a spider net" as Francesca Centurione Scotto Boschieri, curator for the book below, put it.
In Rome since 1728, his father , Paolino Batoni, is a goldsmith in Lucca, Pompeo Batoni is the the most famous "Grand Tour" portrait painter in Europe.
I think we can divide his production in two parts: the first one has mainly religious themes since the Church was his main commissioner, than, in the years 1750-1770, he is mainly a Grand Tour portraitist.
He is a good painter, excellent draftsman and painterly artist. His portraits are not only faithfull reproductions of the faces as we imagine, but the rendering of clothes and the flesh are what strike in their painting.abtoni has apparntly an a maniacal attention to detail. So it's better to see at his paintings in real life, as usual for all paintings!
Today, many of Batoni's painting are kept in aristocratic, 1700s English and Scottish estates with gorgeuos gardens that we can visit. England did not have a "French Revolution" and so it is still ruled by those 400-500 families of the aristocracy whose members Batoni painted and whose nephews are still there in those same houses their ancestors lived in. Now whith Batoni's paintings hanging on the walls....
Book: Francesca Centurione Scotto Boschieri,
Tea with Batoni anecdotses, dwellings and collections of english on the Grand Tour– Un Tea con Batoni curiosità, dimore e collezioni degli inglesi del Grand Tour, Lucca, 2008, pp.152, in English and Italian
St John evangelist
On a personal level, his first wife died when he was still young and left him with 5 children in 1742 (he was 34). He later married Lucia Fantoni in 1747 and had another 7 children, 3 of them helped him in his workshop in Rome.
After his death, his art was completely forgotten. But his painting had three exhibitions in 2008 (Houston Museum of Fine Arts, London National Gallery, Lucca Palazzo Ducale) and the interest around him is growing again.
"The Grand Tour is the name given to the travels around the principal towns and monuments of Europe made by young men of the British upper class in the 18th century. It was considered an important part of the education of a young man to see the great artistic achievements and classical remains of Europe, particularly those of Italy, as well as to improve language skills and to observe the different manners and governments of Europe.
Many had their portraits painted while abroad by artists such as Batoni and returned with a taste and appreciation for the culture of Southern Europe; this to some extent explains the character of the collections of paintings and antiquarian remains found in a number of British country houses, and in certain instances the design and landscaping of them." ( National Gallery)
This is an ubiquitous imagine that you find in Italy and in the World. I didn't know it was made by Batoni!
Death of Meleagro
Purity of heart. Now here.
James Bruce of Kinnaird, 1762. This fellow was 32 when he spent 6 months in Rome as part of his Grand Tour and had Pombeo Batoni paint his portrait. He later became a North Africa explorer (he was very tall and a strong guy). "He is best known for his exploration of the sources of the Nile, reaching the headstream of the Blue Nile in 1770." (National Gallery of Scotland)
Alexander Gordon,4th duke of Gordon
Richard Milles portrait
Francis Basset,1st baron de Dunstanville-