Pompeo Batoni at the National Gallery – London


National Gallery

Pompeo Batoni
20 February – 18 May 2008

In his day, Pompeo Batoni was the most celebrated painter in Rome. The American painter Benjamin West said, ‘When I went to Rome, the Italian artists of that day thought of nothing, looked at nothing, but the work of Pompeo Batoni’.

For nearly half a century, Batoni recorded international travellers’ visits to Italy on the Grand Tour in portraits that remain among the most memorable artistic accomplishments of the period. Equally gifted as a history painter, his religious and mythological works were eagerly acquired by the greatest patrons and collectors in Britain and mainland Europe.

This exhibition, which marks the tercentenary of the painter’s birth, is the first comprehensive presentation of Batoni’s paintings in forty years. It provides a vivid appreciation of the artistic achievement of ‘Italy’s Last Old Master,’ through the finest examples available in the public and private collections of Europe and America.

Batoni’s status as Rome’s most sought-after painter for both portraits and history paintings is demonstrated by works never previously publicly exhibited, as well as newly discovered and recently restored works.


Pompeo Batoni
Sir Gregory Page-Turner, 3rd Bt, 1768-69
Manchester Art Gallery (1976.79)
© Manchester City Galleries
Courtesy the National Gallery

Batoni and the Grand Tour

Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) was one of the most esteemed artists of the age. Rather like the Mario Testino or Lord Litchfield of his day, everyone who was anyone wanted Batoni to paint his portrait. He captured them at the culmination of a long journey to Rome, displaying the learning, clothes, and fineries they had acquired on their trip.

The poses and props in the portraits provide us with good insights about who these men were. For Sir Gregory Page-Turner (above), sitting for Batoni was an opportunity to show off newly acquired sophistication, as well as a newly acquired gold-trimmed frock coat. He stands in the pose of one of the most famous antiquarian statues of his day, the Apollo Belvedere.

While travel has changed beyond recognition since the Grand Tour, it did leave a lasting legacy. The works of art and the tastes young men brought back have influenced collections of art throughout Britain, including the National Gallery.

Pompeo Batoni
Colonel the Hon. William Gordon, 1765-66
By kind permission of the National Trust for Scotland/Fyvie Castle collection
© The National Trust for Scotland
Courtesy the National Gallery
Pompeo Batoni
The Death of Meleager, 1740-43
Private collection
© Photo Courtesy Galleria Carlo Orsi, Milan
Courtesy the National Gallery




Espaces Arts & Objets
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~ by Stampfli & Turci on March 4, 2008.

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